International Mother Language Day

International Mother Language Day (IMLD) (Bengali: আন্তর্জাতিক মাতৃভাষা দিবস Antôrjatik Matribhasha Dibôs) is a worldwide annual observance held on 21 February to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. First announced by UNESCO on 17 November 1999, it was formally recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution establishing 2008 as the International Year of Languages. International Mother Language Day has been being observed since 2000 to promote peace and multilingualism. The date corresponds to the day in 1952 when students from the University of Dhaka, Jagannath University and Dhaka Medical College, demonstrating for the recognition of Bengali as one of the two national languages of East Pakistan, were shot dead by police near the Dhaka High Court in the capital of present-day Bangladesh.

“Mother language” is the calque of a term used in several Romance languages: lengua materna (Spanish), lingua madre (Italian) and langue maternelle (French). A more literal English translation would be “mother tongue”, although “native language” is the most comprehensible term in English. In linguistics, “mother language” refers to an ancestral (or proto-language) of a language family. The 2015 Mother Tongue Day in Islamabad, saw demonstrators demanding that Punjabi (the mother tongue of a plurality of Pakistanis) be made an official language of Pakistan

International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 1999 On 16 May 2009 the United Nations General Assembly, called on its member states “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by people of the world”.In the resolution, the General Assembly proclaimed 2008 as the International Year of Languages to promote unity in diversity and international understanding through multilingualism and multiculturalism. The resolution was suggested by Rafiqul Islam,a Bengali living in Vancouver, Canada. He wrote a letter to Mr. Kofi Anan on 9 January 1998 asking him to take a step for saving all the languages of the world from the possibility of extinction and to declare an International Mother Language Day. Rafiq proposed the date as 21 February on the pretext of 1952 killing in Dhaka on the occasion of Language Movement. Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.

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