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International Mother Language Day

International Mother Language Day

The celebration of linguistic heritage honors the resilience and cultural richness of a nation's language, paying homage to a profound identity and promoting unity.

It’s hard to imagine the challenges faced by students who have been ordered to learn in a foreign language because, without linguistic inclusion, there is no equal access to education. But that is exactly what happens in some educational environments, even in recent years.

One such story takes place in the early 1950s when, after the British rule ended in India, the area was partitioned into three sections. Those from the Bengali-speaking sections were discriminated against when their language was removed from education. But when they staged a protest in 1952, many of them were arrested, and eventually the police opened fire and several of the students were killed.

This incident initiated public reform and eventually led to Bengali being given official status again in 1956, and International Mother Language Day is set in memory of these types of tragic events.

History of International Mother Language Day

This day was officially announced by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1999 but it has been observed in Bangladesh since the mid-1950s. International Mother Language Day celebrates cultural diversity and commemorates the “language martyr” students of Bangladesh. These students are honored by the encouragement of multiculturalism and the promotion of protective measures for endangered languages.

Although this day commemorates the experience of these students from Bangladesh, the United Nations draft about the day was unanimous and the day was sponsored and supported by 28 other countries from around the globe.

Current International Mother Language Day events that are celebrated in Bangladesh as well as many other parts of the world include multicultural festivals which promote the hearing of all voices, and activities that display social cohesion, cultural awareness, and tolerance. The unique nuances and subtleties of linguistic communication which connect individuals to culture and personal identity are valued and encouraged.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Other names for this day may include Language Martyr’s Day, Language Movement Day or State Language Day (in Bangladesh).

How to Celebrate International Mother Language Day

Show some respect and appreciation for the fight for the right for every person to be educated by celebrating International Mother Language Day with some of these ideas:

Learn More About the Bangladesh Martyrs

One way to honor such an important day as International Mother Tongue Day is to get more educated about the events that occurred in Bangladesh in the 1950s. As university students protested, the fight over their right to speak and learn in their mother tongue was opposed by the government and created a chaos where lives were lost. Learning more about events like these can help concerned citizens vote for representatives that support equal rights to education, even for those who do not speak the official language.

Teachers and parents could certainly get their students involved with the day by telling the story and then creating lessons or projects that revolve around history, art, politics, social studies or even language. Celebrating this day would be a great way to model compassion as well as showing kids an example of what it looks like to stand up for their rights.

Try Learning a New Language

Those who were born in and have always lived in a country where English is spoken are at a unique advantage. But those who try to learn another language can begin to have at least the smallest amount of compassion and understanding for those who do not have access to education in their mother tongue.

Even more, try visiting another country where the language is unknown and become immersed in a village or smaller town where no one can speak to understand you. It’s a humbling experience and certainly builds appreciation for those who learn or are educated in more than one tongue.

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