Thursday, February 21, 2013

February 21: International Mother Language Day

Today is International Mother Language Day, which is celebrated on the 21st of February each year in order to promote cultural and linguistic diversity as well as multilingualism. The event was first announced by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1999, and has been celebrated every year since.

Shaheed Minar, or "Martyr Monument" in Dhaka,
dedicated to those killed during the
 Bengali Language Movement demonstrations in 1952.
International Mother Language Day is actually the internationally recognized name of Language Movement Day, which has been observed in Bangladesh since the 1950s. The day originally commemorated the date in 1952 when peaceful student demonstrators supporting the recognition of Bengali as the official language were killed by police in Dhaka. Due to their deaths, the Bengali Language Movement gained momentum across the country, and the language was given official status by 1956. To this day, the date is a public holiday in Bangladesh, while UNESCO uses the day to honor those who were killed through the promotion of multiculturalism and multilingualism worldwide.

Each year has a distinct theme such as "Multilingual Education", which was used in 2007. This year's theme is "The Book", and encourages people to go out and read works written in a local or lesser resourced language. UNESCO wants you to read anything from books to poems to newspapers in order to help make people more aware of the status of minority languages. If you speak or read an under-appreciated local language, use your skills today! If you don't, you can always take the opportunity to learn about local languages near you or cultures that you'd like to learn more about.