Message of the UNESCO Director-General,
on the occasion of International Mother Language Day
21 February 2011
All languages are linked through their origins and borrowing, but each
is a unique source of meaning for understanding, writing and expressing
reality.Mother languages are special in providing the material with which
the world is firstvoiced, the lens through which it is first understood.
International Mother Language Day is a moment to recognize their
importance and to mobilise for multilingualism and linguistic diversity.
Mother languages, along with linguistic diversity, matter for the identity of
individuals. As sources of creativity and vehicles for cultural expression,
they are also important for the health of societies. Not least, languages
are factors for development and growth. We know how important education
in the mother language is for learning outcomes. Mother language instruction
is a powerful way to fight discrimination and reach out to marginalised
populations. As wellsprings of knowledge, languages are also starting points
for greater sustainability in development, for managing more harmoniously
our relationship with the environment and change.
Multilingualism opens fabulous opportunities for the dialogue that is necessary
to understanding and cooperation. Mother languages live harmoniously with
the acquisition of other languages. A plural linguistic space allows the wealth of
diversity to put in common. It accelerates the exchange of knowledge and
experience. This was one of the core themes of the 2010, International
Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures. Building on the mother language,
the learning of ultiple languages must be a pillar of 21st century education.
At the same time, we can do more to support the balanced development of
translation, as a channel to open to all the great diversity of knowledge and
experience throughout the world.
The theme of the 2011 International Mother Language Day concerns the
use of information and communication technologies for safeguarding and
promoting languages and linguistic diversity.
Languages provide the software for information and communication technologies.
These technologies are also a new frontier for promoting linguistic diversity.
UNESCO is committed to promoting multilingualism on the Internet. These goals
guide UNESCO in its work with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Innovative technologies provide new ways also to follow, examine and learn
languages. The success of the online edition of UNESCO’s Atlas of the
World’s Languages in Danger shows the power of the Internet to track the
state of languages and multilingualism, and to raise awareness with a global
audience. Information and communication technologies can be especially
useful in promoting mother languages. We must harness the power of progress
to protect diverse visions of the world and to promote all sources of knowledge
and forms of expression. These are the threads that weave the tapestry of
humanity’s story. The innovation, flexibility and social interaction that lie at the
heart of new information and communication technologies can support these
goals. On this International Mother Language Day, let us pledge to work
together in this direction.