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Multilingualism is a source of strength and opportunity for humanity. It embodies our cultural diversity and encourages the exchange of views, the renewal of ideas and the broadening of our capacity to imagine. - UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova
(February 2013) Each year on 21 February, the value of local languages is recognized with International Mother Language Day (IMLD). First designated by UNESCO in 1999, the annual event provides an opportunity to promote linguistic diversity and focus on a number of issues related to communities’ mother tongues.
SIL International Executive Director Freddy Boswell will be a speaker at this year’s IMLD event at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters. Boswell’s presentation is entitled “Digital archive of the languages of the world.” SIL has just launched a major website upgrade, which includes access to SIL’s extensive archives of language and culture research, vernacular publications and more.
The theme for this year’s International Mother Language Day celebration is “Books for Mother Tongue Education,” highlighting the need for quality educational materials for mother tongue education. SIL’s multilingual education consultants support teachers and other community members in developing reading primers and other resources for classroom use. Many of these materials feature traditional stories from the community or other familiar subjects, accessible topics that affirm the students’ heritage and strengthen cultural ties.
Around the world, SIL is engaged in partnerships with communities, government agencies and other NGOs in providing support for multilingual education. Studies have shown that mother tongue education enhances opportunities for student success. A strong foundation for learning is established as students gain basic reading and math skills in the language they speak at home. Other languages are then introduced as subjects in the curriculum providing a bridge between the student’s home language and that of the wider community and nation.
There will be some overlap of themes when the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) convenes next week. A WSIS session organized by UNESCO is entitled, “Cultural and linguistic diversity: Exploring economic and educational aspects of local content.” One focus of the session will be support of educational processes through the promotion of linguistic diversity, textbooks (including digital texts) and learning media.
Global events for International Mother Language Day include a festival planned for Friday, 22 February, in Cuentepec, in the Mexican state of Morelos. The event will involve universities, government institutions and speakers of a variety of local languages. Music, songs, poetry, drama, and workshops will be part of the program.
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