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International Mother Language Day (IMLD)

February 21, 2019

In all ethnicities across the globe, mother language or mother tongue plays a huge role in a child’s overall learning and development. In fact, much of our emotions and thoughts can be expressed better in mother tongue as compared to any other language. While this is true, mother languages also keep alive the rich cultural heritage of diverse ethnicities that make the global society. Hence, International Mother Language Day (IMLD) is observed around the world on February 21 to celebrate our ethnic and linguistic diversities and promote multilingual education. On this occasion, let’s acquaint ourselves with some facts about the IMLD.

International Mother Language Day (IMLD) was first declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on November 17, 1999.

International Mother Language Day has been observed annually since 2000 across the globe.

The theme each year for this day is chosen by the UNESCO, while it also sponsors related events at its Paris headquarters. This years IMLD theme is: “Indigenous languages matter for development, peace building and reconciliation”.

IMLD was formally recognised by the United Nations General Assembly in a resolution establishing 2008 as the International Year of Languages.

The UN’s resolution was suggested by a Bengali Rafiqul Islam, asking to take a step for saving the world’s languages from extinction by way of declaring an International Mother Language Day. Rafiq had proposed the date as 21 February to commemorate the 1952 killings in Dhaka during the Bengali language movement in Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, February 21 is actually observed to commemorate the day when the citizens fought for recognition of the Bengali language. This day also commemorates the tragic  events down the memory lane such as the killing of four students on February 21, 1952, since they had officially campaigned to use their mother language in Bangladesh.

Infact today the citizens of Bangladesh pay homage at Shaheed Minar (martyr’s monument) by offering flowers. Also, social gatherings are organised honouring their language and rich culture. Literary competitions are held, and festive parties are organised.

The day is marked as a public holiday in Bangladesh, and is known as Shohid Dibôsh, or the Shaheed Day. However, it is not a public holiday in the other parts of the world.

In another part of the world, Barcelona, Spain, The Linguapax Institute, aims to preserve and promote the linguistic diversity globally. Hence,  this institute presents the Linguapax Prize every year for all those with the outstanding work in linguistic diversity or multilingual education.

On this day, the UNESCO and UN agencies participate in various events that promote linguistic and cultural diversities.

UNESCO takes this occasion to encourage all people across the nations to continue to remain acquainted with their mother tongues while also learning and using multiple languages.

This day the governments and non-governmental organisations in various nations announce policies to encourage language learning and support.

One of India’s initiatives on the language front is the Digital India initiative launched by prime minister Narendra Modi. In this initiative, the digitised content was made available in the country’s 22 scheduled languages and extended to India’s other 234 recognised languages. By February 2017, the content in 60 Indian languages had been made available free of charge.

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