International Mother Language Day is observed annually on 21 February worldwide to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity, and multilingualism.
It was first proclaimed by UNESCO on 17 November 1999. Then on 16 May 2007 the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/61/266 called upon Member States “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world”.
This important and crucial statement recognises that the preservation and dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage and maintain linguistic diversity and multilingualism but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, acceptance and dialogue.
International Mother Language or Mother Tongue Day has been observed every year since February 2000. 21 February represents the day in 1952 when students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bangla, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan, were shot and killed by police in Dhaka, the capital of what is now Bangladesh.
Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage and this is what is remembered on 21 February.
This year, the United Nations General Assembly has declared 2019 as the “Year of Indigenous Languages” to raise the awareness of the crucial role languages play in people’s daily lives.
In celebration of Mother Language Day and of 2019 being the Year of Indigenous Languages I am delighted to announce that the theme for this year’s International Day is “Languages”.
In the coming months I will invite the IGS community to work with me to plan and run a day of workshops, forums and fun activities around this theme.
Director of Languages