February 21: International Mother Language Day….

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Indigenous languages have over the years suffered an increasingly localised and restricted existence. This is as a result of the overwhelming influence of global markets, global economics and global corporates. The mother tongue is gradually being dwarfed by these staggering influences and is relegated to a marginal space in the global village.

The erosion of indigenous languages is one of the reasons for the protests that erupted on February 21, 1952, in the then East Pakistan against the imposition of Urdu launched by the Bengali language movement in Bangladesh. That seemingly little act formed the nucleus of the International Mother Language Day. What blew it into a global proportion was when the UNESCO recognition came in 1999, proclaiming it as a day to observe and celebrate indigenous languages across the globe.

Since then, the wish to sustain and develop the mother tongue or the first language, and safeguard the precious heritage of world languages has been on.

The theme of the 2021 International Mother Language Day is, “Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society.” UNESCO believes education, based on the first language or mother tongue, must begin from the early years as early childhood care and education is the foundation of learning.

The global body and other language enthusiasts are taking this as very important now, because according to their research, every two weeks a language disappears taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage. At least 43 per cent of the estimated 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given a place in education systems and the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.

Wondering what you can do to observe this day with the world? Here are things you can do;

Start, listen to and share Indigenous language programs:

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With your transistor radio, smart phone or computer you can still have access to programmes in your local language either from a terrestrial radio programme or online. If none is available in your language, that’s a sign that you need to start one. When you find one, share with family and friends. This is very important if you have relocated to a foreign country.

Find out more about your language online:

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The internet is a global library with almost everything you need in it- that includes your local language. But, if you find out that there is not so much about your local language online, do something fast about it because your language might be one of those that are in danger of extinction. Open a Wikipedia page, an online magazine or a blog then invite fellow speakers to contribute. Someone else might find your indigenous language fascinating and would want to learn.

Learn how groups are supporting indigenous languages through grants:

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If you want to teach your local language to pupils and students in different grades but are seeking funds, there are some initiatives that fund cultural survival. Make researches on them and hit the ground running.

Teach your kids one word at a time:

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Most times erosion of local languages begin when parents don’t teach their kids to understand and speak their local language(s). So, if you belong to that category, from the moment you finish reading this article, call the child(ren) and begin with the simplest of words. If you’re pretty busy, there are online trainings for such. Check them out and register your kids.

Be Social! Please share this message:
Share a greeting in your mother language using the hashtag #motherlanguagesday #IMLD2021. You can insert the link of this article on your socials so that others can read and learn as well.

February 21 is not just marked as the movement for the mother tongue; it is for the preservation of culture for ages to come.

What is your local language and what can you do to ensure its preservation? Do share with us in the comment section.

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