International Mother Language Day 2018
Linguistic diversity and multilingualism: keystones of sustainability and peace
On International Mother Language Day 2018, celebrated every year on 21 February, UNESCO reiterates its commitment to linguistic diversity and invites its Member States to celebrate the day in as many languages as possible as a reminder that linguistic diversity and multilingualism are essential for sustainable development.
UNESCO has been celebrating International Mother Language Day for nearly 20 years with the aim of preserving linguistic diversity and promoting mother tongue-based multilingual education.
Linguistic diversity is increasingly threatened as more and more languages disappear. One language disappears on average every two weeks, taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage.
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.
This year, UNESCO commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its bold statement that ‘no discrimination can be made on the basis of language’, and celebrates its translation into more than 500 languages.
“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status..”
Article 2, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
UNESCO also uses the day to focus on linguistic diversity and multilingualism as an integral part of sustainable development, and in particular to realize targets 4.6 and 4.7 of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) on education.
The SDGs depend on linguistic diversity and multilingualism as a vital contribution to global citizenship education as they promote intercultural connections and better ways of living together.
- Message from UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay:
Arabic - Chinese - English - French - Russian - Spanish
Event at UNESCO
The event will be marked at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris by a language experts’ debate on the theme "Our languages, our assets” in collaboration with the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.
How to celebrate Mother Language Day in your school
- Encourage children to use their mother languages to introduce themselves and talk about their families and culture
- Celebrate culture by having them read poetry, tell a story or sing a song in their mother tongues. Paintings and drawings with captions in mother languages can also be displayed.
- See how many mother languages your fellow students speak. Make a survey of the languages by interviewing them and publish the results on internet.
- Help organize cultural activities such as films, plays and music that celebrate different languages.
- Mother tongue-based multilingual education: the key to unlocking SDG 4: quality Education for All, UNESCO Bangkok, 2017
- MTB MLE resource kit: Including the excluded: promoting multilingual education, UNESCO Bangkok, 2016
- Literacy in multilingual and multicultural contexts: effective approaches to adult learning and education, UNESCO-UIL, 2016
- If you don’t understand, how can you learn?, Global Education Monitoring Report Policy Paper 24, UNESCO, 2016
- 2016 Global Monitoring Report section on Languages, UNESCO, 2016
- UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
UN and UNESCO resolutions
- UNESCO resolution proclaiming “International Mother Language Day” to be observed on 21 February, 1999, following a proposition made by People's Republic of Bangladesh
- Resolution adopted by UN General Assembly on multilingualism, 2002
- Report by UNESCO Director-General on a strategy concerning the role of languages in achieving Education for All (EFA) in the context of sustainable development, 2009
- UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2008
- Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, 2001
- Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic Religious and Linguistic Minorities, 1992
- Follow us on social media: #MotherLanguageDay
- Languages in education
- Linguistic diversity and multilingualism on Internet
- Living heritage and multilingualism
- Local and indigenous knowledge
- UNESCO Bangkok - Multilingual education
- United Nations Mother Language Day Event
- The Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding