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

"The theme of the Day this year, "Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society", thus encourages us to support multilingualism and the use of mother tongues, both at school and in everyday life. This is essential, because when 40% of the world's inhabitants do not have access to education in the language they speak or understand best, it hinders their learning, as well as their access to heritage and cultural expressions. This year, special attention is being paid to multilingual education from early childhood, so that for children, their mother tongue is always an asset."

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

2021 CELEBRATIONS

The theme of the 2021 International Mother Language Day, “Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society,” recognizes that languages and multilingualism can advance inclusion, and the Sustainable Development Goals’ focus on leaving no one behind. UNESCO believes education, based on the first language or mother tongue, must begin from the early years as early childhood care and education is the foundation of learning.

Events around the world

  • Celebration of International Mother Language Day
    organized by the Embassy of Bangladesh in France and the Permanent Delegation of Bangladesh to UNESCO
    Sunday 21 February, 3 pm (GMT+1)
    Follow the event live
     
  • The crucial role of teachers in promoting multilingual based mother tongue education in Africa
    organized by UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA)
    Wednesday 24 February, 3.30 pm (GMT+3)
    More information