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Mother Language Day promotes multilingual ed

UNESCO celebrated International Mother Language Day this week along with educators and government leaders worldwide, highlighting the importance of multilingualism and learning in the mother tongue.

UNESCO International Mother Language Day 2017 infographicA UNESCO infographic for International Mother Language Day 2017 explaining why multilingual education is important.

"I launch an appeal for the potential of multilingual education to be acknowledged everywhere"

Irina Bokova, UNESCO director-general, said this year’s theme, ‘Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education’, provided an opportunity to mobilise for the Sustainable Development Goals, “in particular, SDG 4: to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.”

“Education and information in the mother language is absolutely essential to improving learning”

“Education and information in the mother language is absolutely essential to improving learning and developing confidence and self-esteem, which are among the most powerful engines of development.”

International Mother Language Day on February 21 was enshrined as a day of recognition in November 1999. The day represents protests which took place in Dhaka in 1952, against the exclusion of Bangla as one of the official languages in the then-country of East Pakistan.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted his support for the day: “Diversity is our strength – on this international #MotherLanguageDay, we celebrate the many different languages spoken in our great country.”


The US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs produced a video conveying that 2.3 billion people lack access to education in their mother language.

“Studies report that learning to read or write in your mother language improves learning ability and professional success,” the video said.

“On the occasion of this Day, I launch an appeal for the potential of multilingual education to be acknowledged everywhere, in education and administrative systems, in cultural expressions and the media, cyberspace and trade,” said Bokova.

“The better we understand how to value languages, the more tools we will have to build a future of dignity for all.”

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