It may not be marked on your calendar, but since 1999, February 21 has been designated as International Mother Language Day by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The goal of the day is to encourage sustainable futures through multilingual education.
“Through the ease of international travel and the wonders of the internet, knowing various languages is often crucial to business success,” noted Roni Segal, academic adviser for eTeacher, an online language academy, to Breaking Israel News. “When one learns another language, they not only are able to communicate to more people but they also gain insight into the culture and nuances of those who speak that language.”
The date of International Mother Language Day was chosen to commemorate a tragic event which occurred in Pakistan in 1952. At the time, students were demonstrating for the Bangla language to be recognized as one of the two national languages of Pakistan. Police opened fire at the protest, killing four. These student deaths, caused by their determination to preserve their mother tongue, are remembered on International Mother Language Day. The day is also celebrated with programs which encourage the use and survival of various languages.
“Language preserves and develops heritage,” continued Segal. “For example, so serious and holy is every letter in a Hebrew written Torah that for over 2,000 years of its transmission and with continuous Jewish exiles throughout the world, only nine variations in spellings have been found and these do not affect the meaning of the words.”
This is astounding when one considered that there are 304,805 Hebrew letters in a Torah and about 79,000 words. In today’s world, where nearly 3,000 languages are endangered, how was Biblical Hebrew preserved?
“Bible believers know that the Torah was originally dictated by God to Moses, letter by letter,” explained Segal. “The responsibility to maintain that purity has lasted until today and will continue until the end of days.”
Mastery of one’s native spoken, written and numerical language is a must in order to have a positive and productive future. International Mother Language Day promotes multilingual education, especially for minority and indigenous populations. There is also a special emphasis on encouraging the education of girls and women, since educating this population in many cultures is overlooked or discouraged.
“Language plays an instrumental role in promoting sustainable futures and inspires understanding, tolerance and dialogue between countries and cultures,” said Segal to Breaking Israel News. “Even Braille, sign language, and cyberspace language have been recognized as important types of communication to develop and sustain. In today’s internationally inclusive world, expanding one’s knowledge of languages and cultures is practically a prerequisite for success. It is wonderful that the survival of languages is recognized internationally.”
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