Building peace in the minds of men and women

International Mother Language Day

21 February

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.

UNESCO believes in the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity for sustainable societies. It is within its mandate for peace that it works to preserve the differences in cultures and languages that foster tolerance and respect for others.  

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. Nevertheless, progress is 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.

Multilingual and multicultural societies exist through their languages which transmit and preserve traditional knowledge and cultures in a sustainable way.

MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL

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."

— Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of International Mother Language Day

2020 CELEBRATIONS

UNESCO celebrates ‘Languages without borders’ on the occasion of International Mother Language Day 2020.

Local, cross-border languages can promote peaceful dialogue and help to preserve indigenous heritage. Speakers of Kiswahili across sub-Saharan Africa and Quechua in South America, for example, share a common culture with communities in neighbouring countries.