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February 21: International Mother Language Day

International Mother Language Day

International Mother Language Day on February 21st is a day dedicated to celebrating cultural and linguistic diversity across the world. This day first began in 1999 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as a way to promote multilingualism, linguistic diversity and peace. It was declared an international holiday in 2002, aiming to highlight the importance of preserving mother languages that are often threatened due to globalization. 

According to UNESCO, over 7,000 languages are spoken across the world; however, only 23 percent of those languages have some form of writing system. In addition, one language vanishes every 14 days, according to National Geographic Society’s Enduring Voices Project in 2008. This highlights not just the need for celebration of International Mother Language Day but also for taking action in order to preserve our linguistic heritage and cultural identities around the world.

In Canada specifically, there are over 60 Indigenous languages spoken throughout the country with many being passed down from generation-to-generation as part of oral tradition only. As such it is incredibly important that we take initiative to make sure we honour these languages and their cultures on International Mother Language Day in order to ensure they remain alive and vibrant within our communities. 

Global Learning - a Canadian Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consultancy agency - has worked with organizations all over North America for 25 years in providing virtual learning opportunities and resources dedicated towards creating inclusive workplaces and institutions that honour all cultures equally including Indigenous ones. Global Learning has surveyed 800,000 employees across North America which allows them to create custom DEIB strategies that focus on understanding different perspectives so everyone can feel included while at work or school. These strategies help foster greater representation within organizations  and take into consideration what language is spoken by its employees or customers. 

On this International Mother Language Day let us celebrate all forms of communication from written words on paper or online to spoken words between individuals within our communities both inside Canada or outside worldwide. Let’s celebrate those who have embraced a new language for work or personal reasons as well as those who work hard everyday to maintain their native tongue alive through teaching and sharing knowledge with future generations regardless of location or background. Finally let us take action by supporting initiatives such as Global Learning’s DEIB surveys so we can understand how different people view language within their own contexts which will ultimately help us build bridges between people from all backgrounds both at home here in Canada or abroad.


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