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  • Writer's pictureJace Shoemaker-Galloway

International Mother Language Day: Celebrating languages around the world

Parlez-vous Francais? A very special day is here and people all around the world are celebrating. Feb. 21 is International Mother Language Day, an annual holiday that promotes the preservation and protection of all languages around the globe.

International Mother Language Day began as a tribute to four students who were shot and killed by Pakistani police for protesting the right to speak their own language. Each year, the General Conference of the United Nations Educations, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and its agencies not only promote cultural and linguistic diversity, but also encourages people around the world to celebrate their mother language.

What’s in a word? Plenty! According to, mother language is defined as “a language from which another language is descended: parent language,” also known as mother tongue. In other words – it is the language we learn to speak first and is often the one we feel most comfortable using.

It is estimated that 55 million Americans speak English and another language while many around the world know more than two languages. About half of the nearly 7,000 languages today are at risk for disappearing. Nearly 96 percent of languages are spoken by less than 4 percent of the entire population. Language is not only how we communicate with one another, it is one of the most “powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage,” according to the United Nations.

If you have been considering learning a new language, today is the perfect opportunity to start. Auf Wiedersehen!

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