It has a lilt to it. It even sounds like a melody. That’s what a mother tongue does to a person when he or she hears it. You can go anywhere in the world and learn as many languages as you want but none can take the place of your mother tongue. The whole world acknowledges it which is why every year it celebrates the International Mother Language Day on February 21. That’s right. Supported by UNESCO the whole world will revel on February 21 and celebrate and enjoy International Mother Language Day.
Numbers Don’t Mean Nothin’
The day is being observed since the year 2000 AD but the way the world has responded to it has taken everybody by surprise. Whether it is a language spoken by billions of people like English and Mandarin or a language spoken by only a few like Aramaic the significance of the mother language is the same. Whether it is Arabic, Hebrew, Bengali, Hindi, Marathi, Japanese or Korean the language is dear to the people who have adopted it as their mother language.
A Lesson in History
There is a fair bit of history behind the celebrations of International Mother Language Day on February 21 and it involves the UN. It was first announced by UNESCO on November 17, 1999, and later formally recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in 2002. However the revelers have been celebrating this occasion from 2000 onwards. Mother Language Day is a part of the bigger initiative “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world.”
What’s Bangladesh Got to Do with It?
It will surprise you to know end to know that this day was observed because of the hard work and passion of the people of Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, February 21 is the yearly anniversary of the day when the Bangladeshis fought for the acknowledgement and recognition of their Bangla language. The declaration of this day is a tribute to the freedom fighters of Bangladesh who was earlier called East Pakistan and was part of Pakistan. A lot of people sacrificed everything they had and even their lives so that the world could understand the significance and importance of their mother language.
Prizes are Given Away
UNESCO chooses a particular theme for every International Mother Language Day and sponsors several related events at its headquarters in Paris, France. In fact in 2008 the International Year of Languages began on International Mother Language Day. In Bangladesh February is an official holiday for its people and boy do they love it! Some organizations give out special prizes to people who have worked hard and ethically for the preservation and spread of mother languages. Some of the prizes that are given include the Linguapax Prize in Barcelona, Spain, the Ekushey Heritage Award by Bangladesh and the Ekushey Youth Award also given by Bangladesh.
Fights Over Languages!
There are some controversies regarding this day also. In several places in the world some languages are struggling to stay alive as the number of people who speak it is dwindling. The few who speak them are fighting hard to keep their loved mother language alive but the youth of today is gravitating towards the popular languages that offer more commercial possibilities of survival and getting a job. An example is the agitation in Pakistan where people are demonstrating in public that Punjabi, a language spoken by the majority of Pakistanis, be made an official language of Pakistan. A lot of heat and dust in this agitation!
It Calls for a Celebration!
A mother language reminds one of his or her home and family. Even at an old age people remember their childhood spent in the safety of their parents who struggled to provide for them and teach them how to communicate. A mother language brings with it the sights and sounds and smells of home. It may be a million miles away from where one is but to the person that mother language transports him or her to their home. Such is the power of one’s mother language. Let’s all celebrate this day and remember that languages are meant to bring people closer not to blows! Wish you all a very happy and joyful International Mother Language Day!