International Mother Languages Day

“If one’s mother tongue is forgotten, one’s value will also be forgotten.” –Pramukh Swami Maharaj

International Mother Languages Day was declared on 17th November, 1999 and first celebrated 21st February, 2000 by the UNESCO. It is celebrated to support the awareness of languages and cultural assortment in the world. This year’s theme is “Using technology for multilingualism learning: challenges and opportunity.”

Technology is a world-changing weapon today and it serves multiple purposes in propelling the preservation and propagation of native languages. A good example is singer-songwriter-poet Kwame Riigi, who uses his music and media platforms to educate people about the Kikuyu language and culture. He is a testament that though showing signs of fading, mother tongue is alive and well in the younger generations.

There’s an adage that goes, “It is called mother-tongue because father isn’t allowed to speak!” Though tongue-in-cheek, the usual case is that children learn their mother tongue from their mothers or primary caregivers. In order to ensure their progeny learn the language in the absence of the mother, some families opt to employ nannies who speak the same language to the children. This has resulted in a portion of the younger generation being fluent in their mother tongue.

Intermarriages most of the times mean that families are made up of more than one native language. If one wishes to learn more than one language and cannot do that at home, there are websites, blogs, YouTube channels and podcasts that aim to teach about native languages. This also has an advantage in business in case one travels to a town and he can communicate in the local dialect.    

As we celebrate this year’s Mother Languages Day, let us strive to keep our mother tongues alive through the resources at our disposal. And when we can, let us learn about each other’s languages too, to create a feeling of familiarity and harmony in the community.

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