International Mother Language Day: Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education

On the occasion of this Day, I launch an appeal for the potential of multilingual education to be acknowledged everywhere, in education and administrative systems, in cultural expressions and the media, cyberspace and trade. — Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General

(February 2017)  On 21 February, SIL joins UNESCO in the annual celebration of  language diversity and variety on International Mother Language Day (IMLD). This year's theme "Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education" stresses the importance of and vital need for multilingual education (MLE).

International Mother Language Day also supports Goal 4.6 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): "Ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy." Studies demonstrate that learning is most effective when the instruction is received first in the language the learner knows best. Access to education in the mother tongue builds critical foundations for success with other Sustainable Development Goals, as highlighted in a recently released brochure produced by SIL and UNESCO Bangkok. 

SIL staff are honored to participate in IMLD-related celebrations around the world. At this year’s UNESCO-hosted International Mother Language Day celebration in Paris, SIL Senior Literacy and Education Consultant Dr. Barbara Trudell will present in an interactive session on “Sustainable Futures through Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education: Answering the Difficult Questions.” 

In Uganda, SIL joins other stakeholders invited by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development in preparing for the day. The chosen theme, “Promoting Use of Local Languages in Learning for Sustainable National Development,” will be relayed on TV, radio and other media channels. Entertainment, speeches, and audience discussions will grapple with issues faced by local language speakers, toward embracing the mother tongue as a resource as an asset—not a problem.


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