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When is International Mother Language Day?

February 21st is International Mother Language Day.

What is International Mother Language Day?

Globalization unites the world, but entire language systems are fading in the process. Languages enshrine cultural fingerprints. The loss of a language is the loss of that culture, so International Mother Language Day promotes linguistic diversity and the value of multilingualism.

How do you lose a language? It happens when communities integrate with larger groups. Kids grow up learning the dominant language, which helps them succeed in life, while their parents and grandparents keep the old language. When the older generations pass away though, they take the language with them.

For example, more than a million people spoke Breton in northwestern France in 1826. Only a couple hundred thousand speak it now, and most of them are older than sixty.

When circumstances force people to conduct daily life in a foreign language, it’s a serious disadvantage. That happens every time a language disappears. To fight this, International Mother Language Day celebrates cultural diversity and supports the safekeeping of the world’s languages.

Fun facts about International Mother Language Day!

  • More than 6,000 languages are spoken in the world. More than 43% are endangered, and fewer than 100 appear in digital spaces.
  • There are 500 languages that fewer than 100 people speak.
  • Both Papua New Guinea and India has about 860 native languages.
  • Spanish uses different words when referring to detached knowledge about some subject or intimate knowledge of that subject.
  • The UN started International Mother Language Day in 2000.

How to celebrate International Mother Language Day:

  • Learn about endangered languages and the organizations that are trying to preserve them.
  • Attend multiethnic festivals to celebrate the best parts of other cultures.
  • Maintain your mother language. If you never learned the language of your grandparents, consider devoting the time to this project. With so many language learning tools out there, it might be easier than you think.

What’s the hashtag for International Mother Language Day?

Use #MotherLanguageDay on social media to advocate for endangered languages.