Celebrating Linguistic Diversity on International Mother Language Day 2020

Celebrating Linguistic Diversity
on International Mother Language Day 2020

‘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.’
 Nelson Mandela 

Language is so much more than just a way of communicating. It evokes our emotions, it tells our story, it shapes who we are and it connects us with other people. It plays an important role in our development, in ensuring cultural diversity and in preserving cultural heritage. 

There are approximately 7,000 languages spoken around the world and approximately 2,000 of these are now classified as endangered with one language disappearing every 2 weeks! With each loss of a language, we lose another point-of-view. We lose how that language’s speakers saw the world, and so we lose another lens with which to look upon the world.

Everyone has the right to use their own mother language and to keep the memories, traditions and ways of thinking that their language represents alive. And this is the mission behind International Mother Language Day

international mother-language

Celebrated every year on the 21st of February, International Language Day aims to promote the awareness of language, multilingualism and cultural diversity across the world. 

This date was chosen by UNESCO in recognition of the Bengali language movement, where on February 21, 1952, students protested for their language to become an official national language. Several protesters taking part in the demonstration were killed by police.  
Celebrating International Mother Language Day reminds us of the importance of linguistic diversity and the human right to use one’s mother tongue, preserving it for future generations to come. 

international mother language day 2020

The Importance Of Keeping Our Language Alive 

Language is the most powerful instrument in preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage and can help give us a sense of belonging. All around the world, multilingual and multicultural societies exist through their languages which pass on and preserve traditional knowledge and cultures in a sustainable way. 

The loss of language can often mean the loss of culture and identity. In many societies throughout history, the suppression of the languages of minority groups has been used as a method to suppress those minority cultures. As a result, a large number of the world’s languages have been lost with the processes of colonisation and migration.

Closer to home here in Ireland, we see the use of native language “Gaelic” decreasing each year. According to our last census in 2016, only 39.8% of the population in Ireland claimed to be able to speak Irish however of those, only 4.2% reported using it daily outside of the education system. 

3 Fun Ways To Embrace Your Mother Tongue With Mother Tongues! 

mother tongues festival

The Mother Tongues Festival is the largest festival celebrating linguistic diversity through the arts in Ireland.  Originally devised to celebrate the first birthday of its founding organisation and UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day, the Mother Tongues Festival has hosted events in over 20 different languages since its inception in 2018.

Its mission is to showcase Ireland’s rich artistic and cultural tapestry through the use of the many languages spoken in the country, enabling people to connect through language and diversity and illustrating how multilingualism is not a barrier, but rather a reason to get together and celebrate. 

This year’s festival, taking place from the 21st-23rd of February, features a dynamic programme of performances from across the arts and offers audiences the best in contemporary theatre, poetry, dance, music, literature, visual arts, workshops & more!

Events suitable for all ages! 

To learn more visit: https://mothertonguesfestival.com/

mother tongues festival
mother tongues festival
mother tongues festival
mother tongues families_logo

The Mother Tongues Families group was set up in early 2020 in response to a growing need amongst parents for a space where they could meet others, share experiences and spend time with their baby or toddler through interesting and educational activities.

Hosted on a weekly basis, the group’s aim is to provide parents with the tools they need to support their child’s linguistic development and empower them to foster language and communication both inside and outside of the home. 
Led by a group of experts in language and play, parents take part in creative activities, storytelling and games that foster parent-child communication in a positive and non-judgemental atmosphere.

To learn more visit: mothertongues.ie/mother-tongues-families/

mother tongues families
mother tongues families
mother tongues families
language explorers

Language Explorers is Mother Tongues’ award-winning language awareness initiative for primary schools. Its activities are designed to raise awareness of linguistic diversity in the classroom and in the community and to promote an interest in language learning.

When taking part in Language Explorers, children learn to:

  • Embrace all languages positively
  • Nurture their understanding of linguistic diversity in the classroom and the community
  • Build on prior knowledge and experience of language and language learning 
  • Be proud of and share their language and heritage

The Language Explorers programme is delivered through interactive games, art-making, singing, storytelling and story writing where children are encouraged to explore their own language abilities and learn something new about each other and the people who live in their community.
Mother Tongues delivers Language Explorers Workshops all over Ireland and training can be provided for teachers who want to implement this approach in their own school.

To learn more visit: https://languagexplorers.eu/


International Mother Language Day can be used as a day of reflection on your relationship with your language and how it is connected to your identity. At Mother Tongues, we believe that the world is so much better with variety and diversity, and language is another way we can prove that point.

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