International Mother Language Day

Next Friday, 21 February 2025

International Mother Language Day celebrated worldwide on February 21st celebrates the linguistic diversity of several cultures worldwide. 

One of the main things that define a country's and community's culture is its language and helps in building a different identity for every country. Language encompasses tradition, memory, and unique ways of thinking and expressing oneself as it is present in every component of our lives. 

 Sadly, as globalization spreads across the world, some languages are in danger of disappearing. International Mother Language Day was created to promote multilingualism and cultural diversity, and it aims to preserve all different languages as they are important symbols of identity and heritage for all cultures. 

The Inspiration Behind International Mother Language Day

The Language Movement done by the people from Bangladesh during the 1940s inspired International Mother Language Day. In 1947, the Bengal Province of India was divided according to the various religions of the inhabitants and as a result, Pakistan was created.

Originally, Pakistan was divided into two parts- West Pakistan (now known as Pakistan) and East Pakistan (now known as Bangladesh). 

Tensions arose in Pakistan in 1948 when the government declared Urdu as the official national language, despite the majority in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) speaking Bengali.

This language imposition sparked conflicts, leading to the tragic Language Movement protests in 1952.

The movement eventually inspired the establishment of International Mother Language Day by UNESCO to celebrate linguistic diversity and promote the use of mother languages worldwide.

This infuriated the people from East Pakistan and they organized protests demanding Bangla to be one of the national languages. When the government outlawed public protests, a group of students from the University of Dhaka rallied people together to protest for their right to speak their mother tongue.

On February 21, 1952, police opened fire on the protesters, killing five people and injuring hundreds more. Language was so important for the people of East Pakistan, that they sacrificed their lives for the right to speak it. 

Since then, Bangladeshis have celebrated February 21 as a tragic day in honor of the martyrs who lost their lives. In 1998, two Bengalis wrote to Kofi Annan  (then  Secretary-General of the UN) to declare an International Mother Language Day to save languages from going extinct.

The Government of Bangladesh then submitted a formal proposal to UNESCO, to officialize the observance. 

International Mother Language Day was officially established as an International United Nations observance on November 17, 1999, during the 30th General Assembly of UNESCO. 

Why Language is Important

A person's mother language is the first language that they learn, and for many, it is the strongest connection that they have to their home, their identity, and their culture.

Unfortunately, due to globalization, many languages are in danger of disappearing. The United Nations estimates that a mother language disappears every two weeks, and with it, an entire cultural heritage disappears as well. All the stories and oral tradition of one culture is gone. 

Currently, only a few hundred languages are taught in schools and used in the public domain. Even fewer languages are commonly used on the internet, a place that most of us use daily, and it ends up influencing the languages that stay relevant.

Because of this, out of the estimated 6000 languages currently spoken in the world, 43% are endangered. They are deemed useless and replaced by the ones that are more widely spoken, which means that parents and educators don't teach them to their children, which means that the languages won't make it past this generation and will eventually die out. 

In the United States, the rich diversity of languages once spoken has dwindled, with only a few remaining. English is increasingly overshadowing even those, as mother languages are lost across generations.

International Mother Language Day promotes the teaching and learning of different languages and mother tongues, to encourage diversity and preserve the history of different cultures.

As a result, we learn about different traditions from all around the world, which inspires us to be more tolerant and understanding towards different people, different countries, and different cultures. 

How to Celebrate International Mother Language Day

One of the purposes of this day is to promote multilingualism and multiculturalism, so why not let this inspire you to finally sign up for lessons to learn a new language? By doing so, you'll expand your knowledge, learn more about a different culture, and grow as a person. 

If your mother language is different from the language of where you currently live, organize a party or an event to promote different languages and teach more people about your heritage and identity. Invite different people from different countries and backgrounds to share their experiences too!

If you are interested in this topic, the Mother Tongue Film Festival is held every year on International Mother Language Day in Washington D.C.

International Mother Language Day
International Mother Language Day

International Mother Language Day - Next years

Saturday, 21 February 2026

Sunday, 21 February 2027

Monday, 21 February 2028

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