International Mother Language Day celebrates multilingualism


Did you know that today is the International Mother Language Day which celebrates and promotes linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism around the world?

Text: Eve Ikonen

Pictures: Tania Afrin

The idea of celebrating International Mother Language Day originates from Bangladesh, because since 1952 21stof February has been an important anniversary for people in Bangladesh to commemorate the fight for recognition of Bengali language. On 21stFebruary in 1952, Bangladeshi teachers and students organised a demonstration to claim for the recognition of Bengali as the official language of Bangladesh which was still East Pakistan during that time. During the demonstration several of the participants were killed by the police and Bangladesh became the first and only nation where people have died for promoting their mother tongue.

Thanks to the persistent Bengali language movement, in 1956 Bengali was accepted as the official language of East Pakistan. In 1999 UNESCO approved the idea of International Mother Language Day in honour of the Bengali language movement and since 2000 the day has been celebrated every year. Bangladeshi Academic Forum for Finnish Universities (BAFFU) has been organising an International Mother Language Day celebration in Finland for many years, and welcomes everyone to celebrate and commemorate the day again today at 6pm in front of the Helsinki Cathedral.


In 2017 the theme of International Mother Language Day was the right to multilingual education. HYY’s Community-based climate change resilience project wants to also respect linguistic diversity and promote people’s right to study with their mother tongue in Bangladesh. Therefore, HYY has been supporting a School of Joy project in Dador village since 2017 as a part of the Bangladesh project. The School of Joy is improving local children’s possibilities to use their indigenous Sawtal language in their studies.

Because Bengali is the official language in schools, many children have had difficulties to understand the teaching which has led to school drop outs in the area. In the School of Joy, school homework and materials are translated into Sawtal and children are also taught Bengali, which has decreased the barriers of children in Dador village to participate in education. School of Joy operates once a week and uses creative methods such as singing, dancing, drawing and story telling to bring joy to the teaching and learning processes.

The children of School of Joy have sent greetings and want to thank HYY and its students for supporting linguistic diversity in Bangladesh. You can see their greetings from here.




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