February 21 is International Mother Language Day and this year’s theme is “Languages without borders.” In an open letter, Director-General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay said, “By bringing their speakers closer together, by allowing them to flourish in a shared context, mother tongues generate social inclusion, innovation and imagination. They also breathe life into cultural diversity and serve as instruments of peace.” To read the letter in its entirety, visit https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000372791_eng.
Organizations in countries around the world have scheduled events to celebrate International Mother Language Day. UNESCO will host a day-long event at their headquarters in Paris, France to include a debate centered around cross border languages, cultural performances, and a roundtable on Kiswahili. Participants will also have the opportunity to sample “dishes from all continents” and attend a film screening. The National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC will host the Mother Tongue Film Festival, a four-day long event to include screenings of more than 20 films centered around Indigenous and endangered languages and a performance by a local intertribal drum group.
International Mother Language Day was first proposed by Bangladesh, a UN Member State, and its observance was approved by the UNESCO General Conference in 1999.
How do you plan to celebrate International Mother Language Day? What activities do you have planned for your students? Leave a comment!