International Mother Language Day

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
International Mother Language Day
Official name International Mother Language Day
Significance To "promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world"[1]
Date February 21
Next time 21 February 2016 (2016-02-21)
Duration One day
Frequency Annual
Abstract outdoor monument reminiscent of a prison
Shaheed Minar (Martyr Monument), at Dhaka Medical College and Hospital in Bangladesh, commemorates those who were killed in the 21 February 1952 Bengali Language Movement demonstration.

International Mother Language Day (IMLD) is a worldwide annual observance held on 21 February to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. First announced by UNESCO on 17 November 1999, it was formally recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution establishing 2008 as the International Year of Languages.[2][3][4]


International Mother Language Day has been observed since 2000[5] to promote peace and multilingualism. The date corresponds to the day in 1952 when students from the University of Dhaka and Dhaka Medical College, demonstrating for the recognition of Bangla as one of the two national languages of East Pakistan, were shot dead by police near the Dhaka High Court in the capital of present-day Bangladesh.

"Mother language" is the calque of a term used in several Romance languages: lengua materna (Spanish), lingua madre (Italian) and langue maternelle (French). A more fluent English translation would be "mother tongue", although "native language" is the most comprehensible term in English. In linguistics, "mother language" refers to an ancestral (or proto-language) of a language family.

Group of people holding signs and banners
2015 Mother Tongue Day in Islamabad, with demonstrators demanding that Punjabi (the mother tongue of most Pakistanis) be made an official language of Pakistan

International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 1999 (30C/62). On 16 May 2009 the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution A/RES/61/266, called on its member states "to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world".[6] In the resolution, the General Assembly proclaimed 2008 as the International Year of Languages to promote unity in diversity and international understanding through multilingualism and multiculturalism.

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.

—from the United Nations International Mother Language Day microsite[7]


  • 2000: Inaugural celebration of International Mother Language Day
  • 2001: Second annual celebration
  • 2002: Linguistic-diversity theme, with 3,000 endangered languages (slogan: In the galaxy of languages, every word is a star.)
  • 2003: Fourth annual celebration
  • 2004: Children-learning theme; the UNESCO observance included "a unique exhibition of children’s exercise books from around the world illustrating the process by which children learn and master the use of written literacy skills in the classroom".[8]
  • 2005: Braille and sign languages
  • 2006: Languages and cyberspace
  • 2007: Multilingual education
  • 2008: International Year of Languages
  • 2009: Tenth annual celebration
  • 2010: International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures
  • 2011: Information and communication technologies
  • 2012: Mother-tongue instruction and inclusive education
  • 2013: Punjabi
  • 2014: Turkish
  • 2015: Inclusion in and through education: language counts (with an event in Paris)[9]

International observances[edit]

Outdoor ceremony, with girls in red-and-white costumes dancing
Dedication of the International Mother Language Day Monument in Ashfield Park, Sydney, 19 February 2006

The Linguapax Prize is presented annually on International Mother Language Day. UNESCO chooses a theme for each International Mother Language Day, and sponsors related events at its Paris headquarters on or around 21 February each year. In 2008, the International Year of Languages formally began on International Mother Language Day.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]