UNESCO-IICBA Partners with the Embassy of Bangladesh to Celebrate International Mother Language Day 2018

International Mother Language Day is celebrated every year on the 21st of February and is a time when UNESCO reiterates its commitment to linguistic diversity. For the second year in a row, UNESCO-IICBA co-organised a celebration with the Embassy of Bangladesh.

Around twenty countries were represented at the event by their Ambassador or Embassy representative. The Honorable Ethiopian Minister for Culture and Tourism, Dr. Hirut Woldemariam, as well as numerous UN agencies and NGOs were also in attendance.

Dr. Yumiko Yokozeki, Director of UNESCO-IICBA, read a message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of International Mother Language Day 2018:

“A language is far more than a means of communication; it is the very condition of our humanity. Our values, our beliefs and our identity are embedded within it. It is through language  that we transmit our experiences, our traditions and our knowledge. The diversity of languages reflects the incontestable wealth of our imaginations and ways of life.”

Dr. Woldemariam also said a few words in which she explained that over 50 languages are used in the Ethiopian school system. She also stated that Ethiopia is committed to develop, promote, document and preserve languages. This is especially important as on average every two weeks one language disappears, taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage.

The day was celebrated in as many languages as possible as a reminder that linguistic diversity and multilingualism are essential for sustainable development. Poem recitals, dances, and musical performances were put on in various languages. UNESCO-IICBA’s own Ms. Indriyati Rodjan, Seconded Expert, performed a poem in her mother tongue, Javanese. Children performed various kinds of dances. An Amharic piece was read by a Bangladeshi and a group of students presented readings in Spanish. Representatives of the Embassy of Bangladesh also gave a musical performance.

His Excellency Mr. Md. Monirul Islam, Ambassador of Bangladesh to Ethiopia, invited attendees to say something in their native tongue. More than ten languages were spoken and expressed appreciation for the chance to share their mother tongue. The celebration concluded with food from many countries around the world.

UNESCO-IICBA promotes mother tongue-based multilingual education, because children learn best in their mother language. Linguistic diversity and multilingualism are also integral parts of sustainable development and vital for realizing Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education-  to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. 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.”