International Mother Language Day, celebrated every year on February 21st, was founded to promote and celebrate linguistic and cultural diversity around the world, with a special emphasis on indigenous, minority, heritage, and endangered languages. The holiday was first announced by UNESCO in 1999 and formally recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in 2008.
At the urging of the Bangladeshi activists, February 21st was chosen to commemorate the day in honor of student activists who, in 1952, died protesting the repression of the Bengali language in East Pakistan, present-day Bangladesh. In fact, Bangladesh is perhaps the only country in the world whose independence movement was rooted firmly in the fight for language rights. Today, the Bangladeshi diaspora helps drive International Mother Language Day celebrations in cities around the world.
In the spirit of International Mother Language Day (#IYIL2019), 2019 is also the International Year of Indigenous Languages. As we’ve written, Wikitongues is working with a wonderful coalition of nonprofit organizations and activist collectives to help UNESCO amplify #IYIL2019 — so throughout the year, we’ll be highlighting exciting social media campaigns that equip people with a platform and the context to use their languages online.
Today, the Canadian Commission for UNESCO honored International Mother Language Day with #MyLanguageMatters, which encourages people to share original content in their mother tongue or heritage language. To follow along, you can like Wikitongues and the Endangered Languages Project on Facebook, where we’ll be sharing content created for the campaign.
If you want to get involved, here’s how: