Saturday, 21 February 2009

Today is international mother tongue day

February 21 is International Mother Tongue Day. I have spent the day editing text in my mother tongue (English) while speaking in what I call my father tongue (German). Tomorrow I shall go back to the place where I speak my language of prayer (French). The World Association of Christian Communication have put out a statement to mark the day:

A mother tongue is the language a mother teaches her child. It is the umbilical cord linking that child to the community in which she or he grows up. As such, it is a verbal skin of identity, shaping the sounds used to express feelings, meanings, and relationships.

While mother tongue education and multilingualism are increasingly promoted around the world, languages are disappearing. UNESCO’s Atlas on Endangered Languages points out that “the past three hundred years have seen a dramatic increase in the death and disappearance of languages leading to the situation today in which 3,000 or more languages that are still spoken are endangered, seriously endangered, or dying.”

And according to the Living Tongues Institute, “Every two weeks the last fluent speaker of a language passes on and with him/her goes literally hundreds of generations of traditional knowledge encoded in these ancestral tongues. Nearly half of the world’s languages are likely to vanish in the next 100 years.” The globalization of the world’s economies and the rapid growth of digital communications have speeded up that process.

Mother tongues of cultural minorities have always faced challenges. Doreen Spence, a Cree elder, laments the repression of her mother tongue at church-run residential schools in Canada as an assault on her culture, heritage and way of life: “The essence of Mother Tongue is critical: It is the essence of who we are. It is our identity. It is the way we express our Spirit. It is synonymous with our Culture and Traditions."

Go here to read the statement in full - it's also available in French

1 Comment:

Brian Barker said...

Hi Jane

On the occasion of International Mother Language Day on 21st February, you may be interested in the contribution, made by the World Esperanto Association, to UNESCO's campaign for the protection of endangered languages.

The following declaration was made in favour of Esperanto, by UNESCO at its Paris HQ in December 2008.

The commitment to the campaign to save endangered languages was made, by the World Esperanto Association at the United Nations' Geneva HQ in September. or