The world celebrates International Mother Language Day on February 21 each year to mark the differences in cultures and languages and to promote linguistic diversity. The celebration was approved in 1999 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) general conference and has been observed across the globe since 2000.
The day came into being after initiative by Bangladesh, where thousands had fought and sacrificed their lives for the recognition of Bengali or Bangla as the official language when it was part of Pakistan.
The United Nations said the theme for this year would be “using technology for multilingual learning: challenges and opportunities”. As such, events planned in sync “will discuss the potential role of technology to advance multilingual education and support the development of quality teaching and learning for all,” the UN said.
Nearly 40 per cent of the people globally do not have access to education in a language they can speak in, the UN said, adding linguistic diversity was increasingly being threatened as more and more languages disappeared.
However, the UN said some progress was 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.”
In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief ministers of several states extended their greetings on the occasion, highlighting the sacrifices of those who fought for the cause of their mother tongues.
“Today is also World Mother Language Day. Education in mother tongue is related to the mental development of children. Teaching of medical and technical education in local languages has started in many states,” Modi wrote on Twitter.
Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik said that mother tongue was one’s identity and hailed Odia as an “unique” language. Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan and Karnataka’ Basavaraj Bommai also wished the people on the occasion.
“Greetings on International Mother Language Day! Salute to all martyrs who valiantly fought for the cause of mother language. Plurality of languages needs celebration in India today. We love all languages, we love our mother language,” posted West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee.
Tamil Nadu CM also joined in with a congratulatory message. While saluting all martyrs who fought to protect their language and uphold their rights, his note added: “…determined to see an India where all languages are treated equally – without the dominance of a single language.”