International Mother Language Day

International Mother Language Day
Shaheed Minar, or the Martyr's monument, located at Dhaka University Campus, Bangladesh, commemorates the sacrifice for Bangla Language on 21 February 1952

International Mother Language Day is an observance held annually on 21 February worldwide to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. It was first announced by UNESCO on 17 November 1999. Its observance was also formally recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution establishing 2008 as the International Year of Languages.[1]

International Mother Language Day originated as the international recognition of Language Movement Day, which has been commemorated in Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) since 1952, when a number of University of Dhaka students were killed by the Pakistani police and army in Dhaka during Bengali Language Movement protests.



On 21 March 1948, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the Governor general of Pakistan, declared that Urdu would be the only official language for both West and East Pakistan. The people of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), whose main language is Bangla, started to protest against this. On 21 February 1952, (8th Falgun 1358 in the Bangla calendar), students in the present day capital city of Dhaka called for a provincial strike. The government invoked a limited curfew to prevent this and the protests were tamed down so as to not break the curfew. The Pakistani police fired on the students despite these peaceful protests and a number of students were killed. Four of them were Abdus Salam, Rafiq Uddin Ahmed, Abul Barkat and Abdul Jabbar[2]

Annual themes

The observances of International Year of Languages tend to have a theme, indicated either in the formal program set for observance at UNESCO headquarters, or more explicitly in the publicity.[3]

  • 2000, Inaugural celebration of International Mother Language Day
  • 2001, Second annual celebration
  • 2002, Linguistic Diversity: 3,000 Languages in Danger (slogan: In the galaxy of languages, every word is a star)
  • 2003, Fourth annual celebration
  • 2004, Children learning (the observance at UNESCO included "a unique exhibition of children’s exercise books from around the world illustrating the process by which children learn and master the use of written literacy skills in the classroom"[4])
  • 2005, Braille and Sign languages
  • 2006, Languages and Cyberspace
  • 2007, Multilingual education
  • 2008, International Year of Languages
  • 2009, tenth annual celebration
  • 2010, International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures

International observances

International Mother Language Day Monument, Ashfield Park, Sydney, Australia. Unveiling ceremony, 19-Feb-2006
  • The Linguapax Prize is presented annually on International Mother Language Day.
  • UNESCO sets the theme for each International Mother Language Day and holds related events at its headquarters in Paris on or around 21 February each year.
  • In 2008, the International Year of Languages was formally launched on International Mother Language Day.

See also

Calendar icon.svg Holidays portal


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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