SIL joins celebration of International Mother Language Day 2009

© UNESCO Poster 2009

(February 2009) The tenth International Mother Language Day will feature special events and a book launching at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on 20 February 2009. The day coincides with the closure of the United Nations–designated International Year of Languages, which has mobilized hundreds of partners worldwide for the protection and promotion of all languages, especially endangered ones.

"UNESCO has been a champion of the rights of minority language communities for fifty years. We applaud UNESCO's leadership in validating, preserving, and developing these languages. It is a privilege to be present for this International Mother Language Day celebration," states Dr. Paul Frank, Director of SIL International Relations. "SIL joins its voice and its efforts to those of UNESCO and others in support of minority communities and their right to use their language to meet their changing needs."

Besides Dr. Frank, SIL will be represented at the event in Paris by Mr. Dave Pearson, Permanent Representative to UNESCO, and Ms. Katherine Buehler, Liaison to UNESCO.

Events planned for the International Mother Language Day celebration include:

  • The Linguists, a seventy-minute film by Professors David Harrison and Gregory Anderson, documents how smaller ethnolinguistic communities and their systems of speech are often marginalized by the dominant cultures around them. Many languages and cultures are on the verge of extinction.
  • "Languages Matter for Communities: The Way Forward," a roundtable discussion attended by grassroots practitioners from around the world.
  • UNESCO's introduction of the third edition of its Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger of Disappearing. The publication is intended to raise awareness about language endangerment and the need to safeguard the world’s linguistic diversity among policy-makers, speaker communities and the general public, and to be a tool to monitor the status of endangered languages and the trends in linguistic diversity at the global level.

In his message for Mother Language Day, Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, points out that besides "laying emphasis on each community’s recognition of its own mother tongue, the Day has increasingly drawn the international community’s attention to the foundations of linguistic diversity and multilingualism. It has also become clear that languages, which form part of the identity of individuals and peoples, are key to the Education for All and Millennium Development Goals."

International Mother Language Day, proclaimed by the General Conference of UNESCO in November 1999, has been observed yearly since February 2000. It provides an opportunity to recognize linguistic diversity and the importance of multilingual education. It originated as an international counterpart to Bangladesh’s Language Movement Day, which was established in 1952.

Representative participation by SIL in International Year of Languages:

Research publications

Multilingual education

Fonts and language in cyberspace


Millennium Development Goals


Related links of interest