International Mother Language Day

February 21, 2023

International Mother Language Day is a worldwide annual observance to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and to promote multilingualism.

The idea to celebrate International Mother Language Day was the initiative of Bangladesh, approved at the 1999 UNESCO General Conference and observed throughout the world since 2000.

Linguistic diversity is increasingly threatened as more and more languages disappear. Globally 40% of the population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand.

Multilingual and multicultural societies exist through their languages, which transmit and preserve traditional knowledge and cultures in a sustainable way.

Languages, with their complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, education and development, are of strategic importance for people and planet. Yet, due to globalisation, they are increasingly under threat, or disappearing altogether.

Every two weeks a language disappears taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage. At least 43% of the estimated 6,000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given a place in education systems and the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.

Sadly, when languages fade, so does the world's rich tapestry of cultural diversity. Opportunities, traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking and expression are all valuable resources for ensuring a better future – so we must all ensure these aren’t lost.

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