UNESCO calls for first International Mother Language Day

28 May 2002
THE United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has named February 21 as the International Mother Language Day, with the first being celebrated this year.

According to the organisation, the day has been so named to form part of UNESCO's efforts to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. Close to 6 000 languages are estimated to be spoken around the globe.

"By deciding to celebrate mother tongues, UNESCO's member states wished to recall that languages are not only an essential part of humanity's cultural heritage, but the irreducible expression of human creativity and of its great diversity," said UNESCO Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura.

According to Associate Professor Sizwe Satyo, Head of the Department of Linguistics and Southern African Languages, honouring mother languages is particularly important in the face of the increasing dominance of the English language around the world. "Also, as we celebrate this important day, I think all those involved in language teaching and research should empower workers and researchers in other fields to cope with culture clashes, language barriers and communication across different values," he added.

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