International Mother Language Day is every year celebrated on February 21 since the year 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
It was first recognized in November 1999, when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) brought the subject in the UN General Conference. Later, the resolution was welcomed by the UN General Assembly in 2002.
Languages, with their complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, education and development, are of strategic importance for people and planet. Yet, due to globalization processes, they are increasingly under threat, or disappearing altogether. When languages fade, so does the world’s rich tapestry of cultural diversity. Opportunities, traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking and expression — valuable resources for ensuring a better future — are also lost.
At least 43% of the estimated 6000 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.
International Mother Language Day has been observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.
Every two weeks a language disappears taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage.
Linguistic diversity is increasingly threatened as more and more languages disappear. Globally 40 per cent of the population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand. Nevertheless, progress is being made in mother tongue-based multilingual education with growing understanding of its importance, particularly in early schooling, and more commitment to its development in public life.
Multilingual and multicultural societies exist through their languages which transmit and preserve traditional knowledge and cultures in a sustainable way.
Do you have a favorite proverb in your mother tongue?
To celebrate International Mother Language Day 2019, the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services invites you to send us your favorite proverb in your mother tongue on the following topics: peace, harmony, conflict resolution/competence to deal with conflict, mindfulness, resilience, well-being. The proverbs will be compiled, and the most appropriate ones will be selected to be published on our website and other digital communication tools.