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.
International Mother Language Day has been observed every year since 2000 February to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The date represents the day in 1952 when students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bengali, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan, were shot and killed by police in Dhaka,which is the capital of present day Bangladesh.
International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 1999 (30C/62).On 16 May 2009 the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/61/266 called upon Member States "to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world". By the same resolution, the General Assembly proclaimed 2008 as the International Year of Languages, to promote unity in diversity and international understanding, through multilingualism and multiculturalism.
Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.
—from the United Nations International Mother Language Day microsite
A timeline of events
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")
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
2011, The information and communication technologies
2012, Mother tongue instruction and inclusive education
2014, Mother's Turkish language day
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.