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Languages are an irreplaceable tool for sustainability; each and every one conveys a different pattern of thoughts and worldviews. The realisation of sustainable development depends on linguistic diversity and multilingualism and the contribution it makes to global citizenship education as it promotes intercultural encounters and better ways of living together.

Linguistic diversity is increasingly threatened as more and more languages disappear. One language disappears on average every two weeks, taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage. Protecting linguistic diversity is a challenge. With regard to multilingual education based on mother tongue or first language, progress is being made. Overall, there is a better perception of mother tongues, more commitment to their development in public life, and more measures taken to ensure mother tongue education in the early years of schooling.

International Mother Language Day is celebrated on the 21st of February every year. The UNESCO aimed to put a strong emphasis on the linguistic diversity on the earth and how it shapes cultural groups everywhere. Therefore they announced International Mother Language Day in 1999 and it got established in 2008, the International Year of Languages by the United Nations General Assembly.

On the occasion of International Mother Language Day 2018, UNESCO reiterates its commitment to linguistic diversity and invites its Member States to celebrate the day in as many languages as possible as a reminder that linguistic diversity and multilingualism are essential for sustainable development.

This year, we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and we welcome its translation into more than 500 languages. Its Article 2 states “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex and language.

We live in multilingual and multicultural societies with multilingual citizens. We exist through our languages; it is through language we express ourselves, we communicate, we participate in social and public life, and we transmit traditional knowledge, knowledge and cultures in a sustainable way.

We, at the World Assembly of Youth (WAY), believe that multilingual education facilitates access to education while promoting equity for populations speaking minority and/or indigenous languages. It emphasises the quality of teaching and learning process with more focuses on mutual understanding, respect and sustainability of cultural heritage. Moreover, it facilitates participation and tolerance in society by giving access to cultural expressions, and therefore, ensuring a harmonious interaction between the global and the local. 

Let us promote the preservation and protection of all languages!

Happy International Mother Language Day!