The annual observance of International Mother Language Day (IMLD) on February 21 focuses this year on multilingualism and linguistic diversity, with mention of their importance for sustainable development and peace. The theme has been seen in several forms, including:
- Acting together for Linguistic diversity and Multilingualism (per poster above)
- Linguistic diversity and multilingualism count for sustainable development (as seen on the program for the IMLD event at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris)
- Linguistic diversity and multilingualism: keystones of sustainability and peace (as seen on the UNESCO website)
In her message on the occasion of IMLD, UNESCO director Audrey Azoulay characterized the importance of languages in this way:
A language is far more than a means of communication; it is the very condition of our humanity. Our values, our beliefs and our identity are embedded within it. It is through language that we transmit our experiences, our traditions and our knowledge. The diversity of languages reflects the incontestable wealth of our imaginations and ways of life.
2018 Linguapax Prize to BASAbali
The annual Linguapax Prize, which recognizes contributions to “preservation of linguistic diversity, revitalization and reactivation of linguistic communities, and the promotion of multilingualism,” is traditionally announced on IMLD. This year’s prize was awarded to BASAbali, an organization founded in 2011 to support and develop the Balinese language of Indonesia, and to develop language revitalization methods.
BASAbali’s founder, Alissa Stern, is quoted on the Linguapax site as describing the group as follows:
BASAbali is founded in the belief that all languages, but most importantly a language of a great culture such as Balinese, deserve recognition and use in the modern world — and not be relegated to a language of rural farmers or a language of home, not worthy of activities associated with learning, public affairs and local educational and political practices. The aim, in short, is to develop facilities that will enable Balinese and other local languages to occupy a position of prestige alongside modern national and international languages and to carry forward their rich cultural traditions.
The 18th annual International Mother Language Day (IMLD), observed today (21 February 2017), has as its theme, “Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education,” which seems to carry on the focus on language in education from last year (presumably still with an eye on Sustainable Development Goal #4).
The definition of multilingual education given on UNESCO’s IMLD page is worth copying here…
Multilingual education facilitates access to education while promoting equity for populations speaking minority and/or indigenous languages, especially girls and women:
- It emphasizes the quality of teaching and learning with a focus on understanding and creativity;
- It reinforces the cognitive aspect of learning by ensuring the direct application of learning outcomes to the learner’s life through the mother tongue;
- It enhances dialogue and interaction between learner and teacher by allowing genuine communication from the beginning;
- It facilitates participation and action in society and gives access to new knowledge and cultural expressions, thus ensuring a harmonious interaction between the global and the local.
This year’s Linguapax Prize, announced today (as it is annually, on IMLD), was awarded to Dr. Matthias Brenzinger, a German linguist specializing in African languages (notably non-Bantu click languages) and endangered languages, who is currently at the University of Cape Town and heads the Centre for African Linguistic Diversity (CALDi), which he founded. Dr. Brenzinger has also worked in Japan.
The 17th annual International Mother Language Day (IMLD), observed today (21 February 2016), has as its theme “Quality education, language(s) of instruction and learning outcomes.” Each IMLD has had a theme, and this year’s links mother languages to Sustainable Development Goal 4 of the recently adopted 2030 Agenda, which “focuses on quality education and lifelong learning for all,” and to the implementing plan for Goal 4, the Education 2030 Framework for Action.
According to Ms. Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, in her message on the occasion of IMLD, the Education 2030 FFA encourages “full respect for the use of mother language in teaching and learning, and the promotion and preservation of linguistic diversity.”
IMLD has been observed every year following its proclamation by UNESCO in 1999 (i.e., starting in 2000). IMLD events are organized locally, with UNESCO hosting the main annual event(s) in Paris. There is no definitive list of observances, which probably would not be possible anyway, as some are very small and not widely publicized. Nevertheless, one can get an idea of the range of activities from the internet, via searches or in social media (Facebook has several groups, pages, and event listings – see for example this one).
Although IMLD is international, a fair number of events around the world that are organized by Bangladeshi groups reflect the origins of the observance: In 1952, several students were killed in a protest over language of instruction in what was then East Pakistan, an event that has been marked as Language Movement Day in that country after it became independent as Bangladesh
On the internet there is an IMLD “Tweet in your #MotherLanguage” campaign again this year (first begun in 2014?). It’s not clear what those of us whose mother language is the dominant one on Twitter should do that’s different on IMLD, but there’s always the option to (re)tweet something in another language.