21 February observed as a International Mother Language Day by UNESCO, to promote mother tongue-based multilingual education.

  • Theme for 2021 International Mother Language Day, “Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society,” recognizes that languages and multilingualism can advance inclusion, and the Sustainable Development Goals focus on leaving no one behind.
  • The world has over 7000 languages whereas India alone has about 22 officially recognized languages, 1635 mother tongues, and 234 identifiable mother tongues.

International Mother Language Day

  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization declared 21st February as International Mother Language Day in the year 1999 and World has been celebrating the same since the 2000. International Mother Language Day also commemorates a long struggle by Bangladesh to protect its mother language Bangla.
    • The resolution to mark 21st February as the International Mother Language Day was suggested by Rafiqul Islam, a Bangladeshi living in Canada. He proposed the said date to commemorate the 1952 killings in Dhaka during the Bangla Language Movement.
    • The initiative is aimed at preserving and promoting mother languages. The aim is to protect the diverse culture and intellectual heritage of different regions of the world.
  • Related Data
    • According to the UN, every 2 weeks, a language disappears and the world loses an entire cultural and intellectual heritage.
      • Due to globalization, the rush for learning foreign languages for better job opportunities is a major reason behind the disappearance of mother languages.
    • At least 43 per cent of the estimated 6,000 languages spoken in the world are endangered.
    • Only a few hundred languages have been genuinely given a place in education systems and public domain. Also, 40 per cent of the global population does not have access to education in a language they speak or understand.
    • Less than a hundred languages are used in the digital world.
  • Global Efforts for Protection of Languages
    • The United Nations has designated the period between 2022 and 2032 as the International Decade of Indigenous Languages.
      • Earlier, the UN General Assembly had proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
    • The Yuelu Proclamation, made by UNESCO at Changsha (China) in the year 2018, plays a central role in guiding the efforts of countries and regions around the world to protect linguistic resources and diversity.
  • India’s Initiatives
    • The recently announced National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has given maximum attention to the development of mother tongues.
      • The National Education Policy recommends that as far as possible, the medium of instruction shall be, at least till class 5, (preferably up to grade 8 and beyond) mother tongue / vernacular / regional language.
      • Instructions in mother tongue empowers students with the subject and language of their choice. It will help in building a truly multilingual society in India, improve attendance and learning outcomes, and the ability to learn new languages.
    • Commission for Scientific and Technical Terminology is providing publication grants towards the publications of University Level Books in regional languages.
      • It was established in the year 1961 to evolve technical terminology in all Indian Languages.
    • The National Translation Mission is being implemented through the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore under which the text books of various subjects prescribed in Universities and Colleges are being translated in all languages of the Eighth Schedule.
    • “Protection and Preservation of Endangered Languages” scheme for conservation of threatened languages.
    • University Grants Commission also promotes regional languages in higher education courses in the country and supports nine Central Universities under the scheme “Establishment of Centre for Endangered Languages in Central Universities”.
    • Other Initiatives by the GoI include the Bharatavani project and the proposed setting up of a Bharatiya Bhasha Vishwavidyalaya
      • Further, Vice President has highlighted other areas for the use of local languages, i.e. in administration, court proceedings, higher and technical education, etc.
    • Recently, an initiative Namath Basai by the Government of Kerala has proved to be very beneficial in educating children from tribal areas by adopting vernacular languages as medium of instruction.
    • The Project Navlekha by Google uses technology to protect mother language. The Navlekha is aimed at increasing the online content in Indian local languages.

21 February International Mother Language Day