Photo courtesy of Creative Commons. Caption: An alpana is drawn in celebration of International Mother Language Day. In Bangladesh, people gather together to look at the alpana.

Mother Language Day encourages multilingualism

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International Mother Language Day was created to encourage and preserve languages and cultures. To recognize and raise awareness of people around the world host social gatherings. These gatherings feature literary competitions, festive dishes, and songs from various cultures. An activity specifically held in Bangladesh is drawing alpanas―art floor paintings on the roads. The alpanas are a ritual to the Bangladeshi culture as a way to ask for fulfillment, protection, and guidance in life.

In addition to encouraging linguistic and cultural diversity, International Mother Language Day is also celebrated to commemorate the event of the killing of four students on Feb. 21, 1952. Martyr’s in Bangladesh campaigned to defend and officially use their mother language, Bengali. In Bangladesh, people celebrate International Mother Language Day by placing flowers at the Martyrs’ Monument. Additionally, during the month, a book fair is hosted dedicated to the martyrs that passed away. 

In previous years, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) would throw an all-day party at their headquarters in France. There, they hold competitions consisting of debates focusing on cross-border languages and cultural performances centered around films of indigenous languages. Participants had the opportunity to try samples of dishes from across the world.

Although hosting large parties or attending social gatherings is infeasible this year, there are other COVID-friendly activities to execute safely at home. 

One interactive way to encourage Mother Language Day virtually would be to introduce oneself and the description of the cultures affiliated with one’s immediate family and ancestors. To encourage this festivity through calls, individuals can recite poems or stories in their mother language and interview different students about their mother languages. 

There are also a myriad of activities to carry out solo to preserve the tradition of Mother Language Day. From researching the history of other cultures and learning how to count from one to five in five different languages of one’s choice, the possibilities are vast. Embedding languages in these activities will help reflect on the importance of the different tongues spoken. Languages are the most powerful element to preserve and develop one’s heritage while also respecting various communities around the world. 

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