International Mother Language Day 2014

Contrary to popular wisdom, local languages are perfectly capable of transmitting the most modern scientific knowledge in mathematics, physics, technology and so on. Recognizing these languages also means opening the door to a great deal of often overlooked traditional scientific knowledge…Linguistic and cultural diversity may be our best chance for the future: for creativity, innovation and inclusion. We must not squander it.

-From Irina Bokova’s 2014 IMLD address

(February 2014) Each year on 21 February, UNESCO invites people to recognize and celebrate local languages on International Mother Language Day (IMLD). The theme for this year is “Local Languages for Global Citizenship: Spotlight on Science.” The theme combines a continued focus on multilingual education with the recognition that there is great value in the knowledge that communities have gained over centuries of depending on nature for survival. The Seri community, for example, has a special understanding of the plants and animals of Mexico’s Sonora coast.

SIL staff will participate in the IMLD celebration at UNESCO's Paris headquarters as well as a number of IMLD-related events in locations around the world.


  • In Nairobi, Kenya, Kenyatta University’s Institute for African Studies and SIL have collaborated with other Kenyan partners on an IMLD celebration featuring special speakers and a panel discussion on the place of the mother tongue in learning and society. Staff from the local SIL Africa office are also coordinating guest interview spots on several local-language radio stations, in which members of the Kenya Multilingual Education Network are sharing their thoughts on the importance of the mother tongue for learning and communication.
  • The Solomon Islands Literacy Network has invited teachers and students from local schools to attend a special IMLD program to be held at a later date (14 March) at the Solomon Islands National Museum in the nation's capital, Honiara.


The mother tongue—the language spoken in the home—is used to express a person’s deepest feelings and is the most effective means of communication. For many around the world, the mother tongue is a language shared by a relatively small community, a community facing pressures which make parents and children feel forced to choose between the mother tongue and a more widely-spoken language. Because language and identity are tightly intertwined, SIL recognizes the value of the mother tongue and is committed to supporting communities in ways that allow people to use their languages in new ways to address their changing needs.

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