International Mother Language Day has been observed every year on 21 February, since February 2000 with the aim to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
The theme of this year is “Linguistic diversity and multilingualism: keystones of sustainability and peace“.
The main idea of International Mother Language Day was brought by Bangladesh. It is a national holiday in Bangladesh. It’s on 21st February when Bangladeshis fought for recognition for the Bangla language.
On February 21, 1952, students and social workers of Dhaka University protested against the linguistic policy of the then Pakistan government, protesting to maintain the existence of their mother tongue.
Pakistan police opened fire on protesters resulting in many youths being martyred. The sacrifice of the martyrs was not wasted and the government has to give the Bengali language the official status, so in memory of the martyred youth in linguistic movement, UNESCO announced its first celebration on February 21, 1999, as Mother Language Day.
According to the United Nations, the number of languages spoken in the world is approximately 6900. Among them the topmost spoken languages are Japanese, English, Russian, Bengali, Portuguese, Arabic, Punjabi, Mandarin, Hindi, and Spanish.
India has been a country of diverse culture and language, there is about 43-million-Hindi-speaking population. After Hindi and Punjabi, Bengali is the third most spoken language in India. Hindi is also popular among other mother tongues as a second language.
On this day, colorful events and competitions are organized in most of the schools and colleges. There are events like speech, debate, singing, essay, writing competition, painting competition, music, and theatrical exhibition.
“Indigenous peoples have always expressed their desire for education in their own languages, as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. “Indigenous languages matter for development, peacebuilding, and reconciliation”, the theme of this year’s International Mother Language Day will be indigenous languages as a factor in development, peace, and reconciliation.
Indigenous peoples number some 370 million and their languages account for the majority of the approximately 7,000 living languages on Earth. Many indigenous peoples continue to suffer from marginalization, discrimination and extreme poverty, and are the victims of human-rights violations (…). On this International Mother Language Day, I thus invite all UNESCO Member States, our partners and education stakeholders to recognize and enforce the rights of indigenous peoples.”
— Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of International Mother Language Day