ULG's Language Services Blog

The Preservation of Culture One Language at a Time

It is estimated at least one language dies out every two weeks – taking the culture and all of its unique expression along with it.

In 1999, an idea was proposed to the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to designate February 21st as International Mother Language Day.

The mother tongue is one of the most important parts to understanding and preserving a culture.

Where it Began: One Group’s Fight for Recognition

When Pakistan’s government declared the national language to be Urdu, the population who spoke Bengali campaigned and protested for their mother language.

In 1956, Bengali was finally recognized as an official language of Pakistan.

Why Make it an International Observance?

The UN estimates there are over 6,000 languages spoken around the world, and 43% of those are considered endangered.

Preserving linguistic diversity is the driving force behind International Mother Language Day. 

When a language becomes endangered, cultures and memories are taken with it.

For younger generations, the lack of knowledge surrounding their mother language can have a negative impact on their identity and cultural connection.

By establishing this day as an international observance, it spreads awareness of the importance cultural preservation and diversity.

The Impact of International Mother Language Day  

Not only have ideas surrounding language preservation been implemented, but a wave of protection to those around the world has started.

In 2008, the General Assembly created the International Year of Languages. Instead of one day being dedicated to an important cause, a whole year was. This provided a wide understanding of the hardships many cultures go through in the fight to preserve their language.

The International Year of Languages focused on ensuring languages were treated equally and all given the same opportunities.

Preventing the Extinction of a Language

The disappearance of languages is preventable.

Taking language or culture classes, speaking your native language whenever you can and handing down memories and stories to friends and future generations are all feasible ways to stop the risk of a language and culture from going extinct.

In addition, many students aren't taught their mother language in schools because it's not recorded in textbooks. Offering reading and writing mother language courses in educational settings is an important step to preserving endangered dialects and languages.

Keeping in Touch with the Mother Language

Although International Mother Language Day comes once a year on February 21st, does not mean languages should only be preserved once a year. Everyday should be a strive for equal opportunity.

With the technology and resources available today, mother languages can be preserved and used through language solutions like translation, localization and interpreting.

Do you want to help spread awareness for preserving mother languages? Share this post on LinkedIn and Twitter!