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International Mother Language Day – February 21, 2023

International Mother Language Day is celebrated annually on February 21. This movement began as a Bangla language movement in East Pakistan, now the independent country of Bangladesh. It was started to preserve the Bangla language that was widely spoken by the people of Bangladesh. This day is equally important for us to know that there are multiple languages in the world and we must strive to preserve their heritage and existence.

History of International Mother Language Day

International Mother Language Day has been an annual observance throughout the world since 2000. It was first announced by UNESCO on November 17, 1999. Later in 2002, the United Nations General Assembly formally recognized it with the adoption of the U.N. resolution 56/262.

It was an initiative in Bangladesh to celebrate International Mother Language Day. February 21 also marks the anniversary when the people of Bangladesh fought for recognition for the Bangla language. The history of this dates back to 1947 when Pakistan was created. It encompassed two geographically separate parts known as East Pakistan and West Pakistan. These regions had strikingly different cultures and languages.

In 1948, Dhirendranath Datta from East Pakistan demanded in the constituent Assembly of Pakistan that Bangla be at least one of the national languages in addition to Urdu. There were many protests held to make this happen, however, the government of Pakistan outlawed public meetings and rallies to quell these protests. Post this, the students of the University of Dhaka, along with the general public, organized massive rallies and meetings. The police even opened fire on these rallies.

Much later after Bangladesh came into existence, Rafiqul Islam’s proposal was introduced in the Bangladesh parliament. A formal proposal was also made to UNESCO by the Government of Bangladesh. On November 17, 1999, the 30th General Assembly of UNESCO unanimously resolved that “February 21 be proclaimed International Mother Language Day throughout the world to commemorate the martyrs who sacrificed their lives on this very day in 1952.”

Bangladeshis celebrate this day by visiting the Shaheed Minar, a monument built in memory of the martyrs and its replicas to express their deep sorrow and pay their respects.

International Mother Language Day timeline

1948
Urdu as Pakistan’s National Language

The Pakistan Government declares Urdu as the National language despite Bangla being widely spoken in East Pakistan.

February 21, 1952
Fire on Rallies

The police in Pakistan open fire on rallies that were protesting for the inclusion of their mother tongue.

January 9, 1998
Letter to Kofi Annan

Rafiqul Islam and Abdus Salam write a letter to Kofi Annan asking him to take a step towards preserving languages and declaring International Mother Language Day.

2008
Year of Languages

The U.N. General Assembly establishes the International Year of Languages.

International Mother Language Day FAQs

Which is the first language in the world?

The world’s most ancient language is Sanskrit, also known as Devbhasha. It has been observed that all European languages are ​inspired by Sanskrit.

What is the hardest language to learn?

Some of the hardest languages to learn are Mandarin, Icelandic, Japanese, Hungarian, Korean, Arabic, Finnish, and Polish.

Which language has the hardest grammar?

The Hungarian and Finnish languages have the most challenging grammar and can be difficult to grasp easily.

How to Observe International Mother Language Day

  1. Sign up for a language class

    On International Mother Language Day, sign up to learn an international language. It could be any language from Mandarin to Spanish to Hindi to French. There are so many languages out there that you will be surprised.

  2. Speak in your native language

    On International Mother Language Day, try to speak only in your local language, at least with your family. Most of the time we end up speaking in a neutral language and forget how to say basic words in our native language. Today is the day you can change that.

  3. Teach a language

    Are you already multilingual? Well, you can use your skills to teach another language to a friend or family. This will also help you to brush up on your knowledge and master the language perfectly.

5 Linguistic Facts About Mother Languages

  1. Indian languages

    Most Indian languages fall into four distinct groups that are Afro-Asiatic, Dravidian, Indo-Aryan, and Sino-Tibetan.

  2. Thousands of languages

    There are around 7,000 languages that exist across the globe.

  3. Papua New Guinea

    Papua New Guinea has the most languages in the world with 840 languages.

  4. Languages becoming extinct

    Around the world, approximately 2,400 languages are on the verge of extinction.

  5. English has the most words

    With over 250,000 words, the English language has the most number of words.

Why International Mother Language Day is Important

  1. It promotes diversity

    The world is made of hundreds of cultures that speak different languages. International Mother Language Day promotes cultural diversity. It allows people to know the many languages in the world and provides a window into other cultures.

  2. It promotes language learning

    Knowing more than one language is always an advantage. You never know when a second language may come into use. International Mother Language Day promotes multilingualism and encourages learning another language.

  3. It preserves old languages

    Languages are essential for easy communication. Many languages are fading, and we don’t know of their existence. This day throws light on the many languages of the world and allows us to know ancient languages as well.

International Mother Language Day dates

YearDateDay
2023February 21Tuesday
2024February 21Wednesday
2025February 21Friday
2026February 21Saturday
2027February 21Sunday

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