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A Day to Celebrate Indigenous Languages

International Mother Language Day is a moment for all of us to raise the flag for the importance of mother tongue to all educational efforts, to enhance the quality of learning and to reach the unreached. -Irina Bokova, Former UNESCO Director-General

International Mother Language day is celebrated every 21st February. This date was declared by UNESCO at its 1999 general conference and has been celebrated throughout the world since 2000.

The day is marked to promote and preserving linguistic, multilinguistic and cultural diversity across the globe. This year’s theme is “Indigenous languages matter for development, peacebuilding, and reconciliation”.


The declaration of International Mother Language day also known as the “Mother tongue day” came up as a tribute to the language movement in then East Pakistan by Bangladeshis. When the Government of Pakistan in 1948, declared Urdu as the national language, the people of the Bengali tribe protested in favour that Bangla to included as one of the national languages.

To stop the protest, the government banned public meetings and rallies. However, some student of the University of Dhaka, arranged massive rallies and meetings. Unfortunately, on 21st February 1952, in an opened fire on rallies, five died; Salam, Barkat, Rafiq, Jabbar and Shafiur and hundreds were injure.

The Shaheed Minar. Photo credit: Mostaque Ahammed

                     Language is the dress of thought. -Samuel Johnson

Since then, Bangladeshis marked 21st February as a tragic day. On this day, they visit the Shaheed Minar, a monument built in memory of the martyrs to pay their respects to the martyrs. The day is a national public holiday in Bangladesh.

On 9 January 1998 Rafiqul Islam, a Bengali wrote a letter to Kofi Annan proposing that 21 February is marked as International Mother Language day to commemorate the 1952 killings in Dhaka during the Language Movement. Islam’s aim was to save the world’s languages from extinction.

To celebrate this day, this year UNESCO organized an event in Paris. Sneak peak at the post by George Christopher on Instagram.

The international Mother language day is celebrated in different ways especially by people trying to speak their native dialect. And challenging others to. I saw this video by the Guardian TV on YouTube challenging Nigerians to speak their Languages.


Now my challenge to you, translate this statement in your Mother Language: “All we need is Love.”



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