International Mother Language Day

International Mother Language Day 2020: across the globe, on 21st February, International Mother Language Day (IMLD) celebrated as a worldwide annual observance of UNESCO.

According to the United Nations, around 43 per cent of the 7000 languages that are used (read, written and spoken) in the world are at the risk of being eliminated. The UN also says that a language disappears every two weeks, which destroys an entire cultural and intellectual heritage.

History of International Mother Language Day

In order to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism, International Mother Language Day has been observed since 2000. Bangladesh mooted the idea to observe International Mother Language Day. The proposal got the UNESCO’s approval in 1999.

  • The date pays tribute to the students in Bangladesh who gave their life on this day in 1952 for the recognition of their language ‘Bangla’ as one of the two national languages
  • The day is celebrated all over the world, while in Bangladesh, it is celebrated as Shaheed Day commemorating the sacrifice of the martyrs for the language of Bengali
  • On February 29, 1956, Bengali was recognised as the second official language of Pakistan under article 214(1) of the constitution which states “The state language of Pakistan shall be Urdu and Bengali.”
  • The police gunned down four students of Dhaka University Abul Barkat, Abdul Jabbar, Sofiur Rahman, Abdus Salam, when they marched towards the East Bengal Legislative Assembly breaking the curfew

Theme for International Mother Language Day 2020

The central theme for International Mother Language Day 2020 is ‘Languages without borders’. According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) ‘local, cross-border languages can promote peaceful dialogue and help to preserve indigenous heritage’.

International Mother Language Day 2020 celebration in India

India celebrates its cultural heritage under the aegis of ‘Unity in Diversity’ principle and languages are not an exception to this. India has 22 officially recognised languages, 1635 rationalised mother tongues, 234 identifiable mother tongues, according to Census 2001. This makes International Mother Language Day especially significant in the Indian context.

The ministry has been observing this day along with educational institutions and language institutions for the past three years.

Especially, by this year’s theme being ‘Languages without borders’, it gives the diverse linguistic heritage of India to showcase its strength of how it has managed to house so many languages within the same geographic boundaries and used it as a tool to facilitate dialogue for conflict resolution.

UN’s Message Mother Language Day

On the occasion of International Mother Language Day, Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, in a statement said, “By bringing their speakers closer together, by allowing them to flourish in a shared context, mother tongues generate social inclusion, innovation and imagination. They also breathe life into cultural diversity and serve as instruments of peace”. 

Mother Language Day Background

The General Conference of UNESCO proclaimed International Mother Language Day in 1999 and it was welcomed by the UN General Assembly in its resolution of 2002.

The UN General Assembly in 2007 asked its member states “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world.” The UN General Assembly officially recognised the day in 2008.

Also See: International Mother Language Day Quotes


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