International Mother Language Day

(February 21)

In November 1999, UNESCO declared the 21st of February, as International Mother Language Day. This great occasion reminds us of those who dedicated their lives to glorifying their mother language. They raised massive protests against imposing any state language on them. It was first observed on February 21st, 2000. 

Why is International Mother Language Day Important?

Through globalization, many languages have come under threat of disappearing altogether. Mother Language is crucial for preserving their culture and heritage. At least 40 % of the world’s estimated 7000 spoken languages are endangered, and their intellectual heritage is also being lost. Also, 40% of the people in the world do not have access to education in their mother language that alone they understand. This day is important to ensure these languages are not forgotten and their heritage and history remain intact. Today there is a growing awareness that languages play a vital role in the development and in ensuring cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue. This will help in strengthening cooperation and attaining quality education for all, in building inclusive knowledge societies, and preserving and in mobilizing the will for applying the benefits of science and technology to sustainable development.

Next decade to focus on Indigenous languages

On the initiative of UNESCO, many governments, indigenous leaders, other stakeholders, and experts have adopted recommendations for a global plan of action for the Decade (2022-2032). The historic Los Pinos (Mexico) Declaration (in February 2020) emphasizes indigenous peoples’ rights to an education in their mother tongue, to participate in public life using their languages, and to ensure the survival of their indigenous languages.

Why do we observe International Days ?

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, mobilize the will and resources to address global problems, and celebrate and reinforce the achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.

Dr. Surjit Singh Bhatti, Calgary (

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