"21 February" - International Mother Language Day - IMLD 2013
  • IMLD 2013.jpgIMLD 2013 Theme : "Books for mother tongue education"

    In 1999, UNESCO decided to launch an International Mother Language Day
    (IMLD) to be observed throughout the world each year on 21 February.

    This celebration is designed to promote linguistic diversity and
    multilingual education, to highlight greater awareness of the importance of
    mother tongue education.

    "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." - Irina
    Bokova, UNESCO Director General

    Linguistic and cultural diversity represent universal values that strengthen
    the unity and cohesion of societies. That is why UNESCO's Director-General,
    in launching IMLD 2013, will reinforce the importance of this core message
    and specifically highlight this year's theme of access to books and digital
    media in local languages.

    UNESCO's Member States worldwide are key actors in the promotion of mother
    tongues through their national institutions and associations. The media,
    schools, universities and cultural associations play an active part in
    promoting the IMLD goals.

    Using the slogan "Books for Mother tongue education", IMLD 2013 aims to
    remind key stakeholders in education that in order to to support mother
    tongue education, it is essential to support the production of books in
    local languages.

    The importance of written materials in mother tongues

    Mother tongue education in its broader sense refers to the use of mother
    tongues in the home environment and in schools. Language acquisition and
    mother tongue literacy should ideally be supported by written resources such
    as - but not limited to - books, primers and textbooks, to support oral
    activities. Written materials in mother tongues reinforce learners' literacy
    acquisition and build strong foundations for learning.

    Today, a great number of languages lack a written form, yet progress has
    been made in developing orthography. Local and international linguists,
    educationalists, teachers work together with for example Indigenous peoples
    in Latin America, or tribes in Asia to develop orthography. The use of
    computers to produce books and the relatively low cost of digital printing
    are promising ways to produce cheaper written materials to enable wider

    Mother tongue education

    UNESCO advocates for mother tongue instruction in a bilingual or
    multilingual education approach in the early years because of its importance
    in creating a strong foundation for learning: the use mother tongue with
    young children at home or in pre-school prepares them for the smooth
    acquisition of literacy in their mother tongue and eventually, the
    acquisition of the second (perhaps national) language at a later stage in
    their schooling.

    UNESCO defines bilingual and multilingual education as " the use of two or
    more languages as mediums of instruction. The Organization adopted the term
    'multilingual education' in 1999 to refer to the use of at least three
    languages in education: the mother tongue; a regional or national language
    and an international language.

    The importance of mother tongue instruction in the early years of schooling
    is emphasized in the findings of studies, research and reports such as the
    annual UNESCO EFA Global Monitoring Report.


    UNESCO is launching the IMLD celebration 2013 with an event at its Paris
    Headquarters on the theme of the Day: "Mother tongues and books - including
    digital books and textbooks". Experts in languages will highlight the
    contribution of mother tongues to the promotion of linguistic and cultural
    diversity, and the development of intercultural education through , for
    example, digital archives of the world languages.

    UNESCO will participate in a round table at the University of Evry (France),
    where the findings of a study, "What languages do students from the
    University of Evry speak?", will be presented. University professors,
    students and linguists will address issues concerning languages and
    education. UNESCO will present its position on mother tongue instruction in
    a bilingual or multilingual education approach.

    IMLD 2013 is linked to the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS).
    UNESCO is organizing a session on cultural diversity and identity,
    linguistic diversity and local content at WSIS on 26 February. The objective
    is to increase access to local educational content and related knowledge and
    information through the use of local languages in digital textbooks.

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