This Monday 21 February 2022 the international community celebrates Mother Tongue Day. Proclaimed since 2000 by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), International Mother Tongue Day aims to raise awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and to recall the importance of multilingualism in our societies.
The world is commemorating the 22nd International Mother Tongue Day on 21 February under the theme “Using technology for multilingual learning: challenges and opportunities“. Indeed, UNESCO, through this topic, invites us to focus on the potential role of technology in advancing multilingual education and supporting the development of quality teaching and learning for all. Thus, technology can accelerate efforts to ensure equitable and inclusive learning opportunities for all if it is guided by the fundamental principles of inclusion and equity. As a privileged vehicle for the transfer of knowledge and ideas, languages play an important and indisputable role in human being education and development.
When our mother tongues are classified in the secondary axis
Our mother tongue is the language with which we learn our first words. It allows us to describe the world around us from an early age. Even if we reach an excellent level in other languages, we will always have the reflex to describe things around us with the words of our mother tongue. It is in fact the basis of our first interactions in society. At the same time, many countries have English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, etc. as official languages.
However, many of the speakers in these countries also have another mother tongue, from a community of origin to which they belong. For example, in South Africa, everyone speaks English, but many people want to preserve the Zulu language. The same is true for almost all African nations and even the world. According to UNESCO, of the 6,700 languages spoken in the world today, 43% are threatened with extinction.
Language as a cultural tool
It is recognised that language is an undeniable cultural vector. It is indeed through it that one can integrate well into one’s culture and preserve it. Thus, languages, with their complex implications of identity, communication, social integration, education and development, are of strategic importance for people and for the planet.
Unfortunately, many of our mother tongues tend to disappear with the process of globalisation and the movement of people to the big cities. But when languages die out, the cultural diversity making humanity so rich is at risk of disappearing as well.
Since every language is also a cultural reflection, local languages, in particular the languages of minorities and indigenous peoples, play a vital role in preserving our rich global cultural diversity. They enable the transmission of culture, values and traditional knowledge, as well as the promotion of sustainable futures.
Undoubtedly, the aim of the organisation is to draw attention to language issues, but also to mobilise different actors to support the implementation of strategies and policies in favour of language diversity and multilingualism in all regions of the world.