International Mother Language Day: Indigenous language as a factor in development


In recognition of the importance of indigenous language as a factor in development, peace and reconciliation, February 21 is set aside to observe the International Mother Language Day around the world every year.

It’s a day to celebrate the linguistic and cultural diversity. Indigenous peoples number some 370 million and their languages account for the majority of the approximately 7,000 living languages on Earth.

This year’s theme is focused on indigenous languages matter for development, peace building and reconciliation. Today reminds us that when a language dies, it takes with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage. We are connected with words and are empowered by our individual languages which we communicate our pains and joys. With our indigenous languages, we can build our communities in peace which ensures development.

The idea to celebrate International Mother Language Day was the initiative of Bangladesh. It was approved at the 1999 UNESCO General Conference and has been observed throughout the world since 2000.

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, said, “Indigenous peoples have always expressed their desire for education in their own languages, as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Since 2019 is the International Year of Indigenous Languages, the theme of this year’s International Mother Language Day will be indigenous languages as a factor in development, peace and reconciliation.

“Indigenous peoples number some 370 million and their languages account for the majority of the approximately 7,000 living languages on Earth. Many indigenous peoples continue to suffer from marginalization, discrimination and extreme poverty, and are the victims of human-rights violations.”

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.

Cultures endure through their languages which transmit and preserve traditional knowledge and values in a sustainable way.

Happy International Mother Language Day!