The International Mother Language Day was established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on the 17th of November 1999 and was firstly observed in 2000. Languages, with their complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, education, and development, are of strategic importance for people and planet. Yet, due to globalisation processes, they are increasingly under threat, or disappearing altogether.
Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. At least 43 percent of the estimated 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given a place in education systems and the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.
This year’s theme is “Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society” and is a call on policymakers, educators and teachers, parents and families to scale up their commitment to multilingual education, and inclusion in education to advance education recovery in the context of COVID-19 pandemic. This effort also contributes to the United Nations International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032), for which UNESCO is the lead agency, and which places multilingualism at the heart of indigenous peoples’ development.
In respect of this day, we at World Assembly of Youth (WAY) aim to bring perception to this issue and appeal to the society to embrace this day globally. We strongly encourage young people to rejoice this day and the value of all mother tongues for linguistic and cultural diversity. Besides, in the context of education itself, the significance of mother tongue language is obvious acknowledging the fact that it is more approachable to teach young people in their own language. It is pivotal for young people to recognise that language diversity helps to enrich us all, that this diversity of languages is a treasure, not a barrier.
We call upon our members and young people to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.