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International Mother Language Day- An aim to advance multilingualism

By Naseerah Nanabhai

International Mother Language Day is celebrated on the 21st of February each year. Since 2000, this day has reminded us that linguistic diversity and multilingualism are essential for sustainable development. This UNESCO initiative echoes its commitment to diversity and recognises that languages and multilingualism can advance inclusion and foster tolerance and respect for others.

Linguistic diversity is severely threatened as an increasing amount of languages disappears each year. Research has revealed that one language disappears each week, together with its cultural and intellectual heritage. Moreover, 43% of the world’s estimated 6000 spoken languages are endangered.

About 40% of the world’s population do not have access to education in a language they speak or understand. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given a place in education systems and the public domain – less than a hundred languages are used in the digital world.

However, essential progress is being made regarding mother tongue-based multilingual education, focusing on its importance in early schooling and a commitment to its development. Awareness of the threat to linguistic diversity and initiatives like this help promote the vernacular language.

This year’s International Mother Language Day theme is Using technology for multilingual learning: Challenges and opportunities”. It will expand on the potential role of technology to advance multilingual education and support the development of quality teaching and learning for all and aim to use science and technology in a way that will be advantageous to sustainable development.

Effectually, the day aims to recognise that languages play a vital role in development, ensure cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue, and help strengthen cooperation and attain quality education for all.


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