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. In Bangladesh the 21 February is the anniversary of the day when Bangladeshis fought for recognition for the Bangla language.

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.  

Every two weeks a language disappears taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage.

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

“A language is far more than a means of communication; it is the very condition of our humanity. Our values, our beliefs and our identity are embedded within it. It is through language that we transmit our experiences, our traditions and our knowledge. The diversity of languages reflects the incontestable wealth of our imaginations and ways of life.”

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

Download the complete message in PDF format
English | Français | Español | Русский | العربية | 中文