International Mother Language Day | February 21

 On International Mother Language Day we celebrate the diversity of languages and cultures as well as multi-lingualism.


International Mother Language Day Feb 21
Credit: By Stellapark025 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

International Mother Language Day | Lesson Plan


International Mother Language Day was first announced by UNESCO in 1999, and formally recognized the United Nations General Assembly in 2008 to promote multilingualism (knowing more than one language).

We All Share Language

Language is common to all peoples. In fact, some scholars such as Steven A. Pinker believe language makes us human


Language is incredibly complex. The average 8-year old knows about 10,00 words, and the average adult knows between 20,000 to 35,000 words.Anyone who has tried to learn another language knows there are new words and rules of grammar to learn.  Yet in our mother language, we all know how to tell a story, ask for something or tell a joke!


Endangered Languages

As the world becomes more interconnected, many languages are being replaced by more common languages.

In many countries, people are discriminated against for speaking a minority language. Some people of minority languages don't teach their children their mother language, thinking their children have better access to jobs and advancement through learning only the majority language.

However, diversity of language is important, because languages can also become endangered or extinct, when the last living speaker dies. 

Some linguists believe it is important to preserve these mother languages, just like preserving endangered animals, because they preserve human knowledge and culture. Languages also open up to us different ways of seeing the world. In Cherokee, for example, there is a word for the feeling when you see an adorable kitten, which has no English equivalent: oo-kah-huh-sdee.2

Learn more about mother languages with the following stories, films, audio, art and newswire stories.


In Cherokee, there is a word for the feeling when you see an adorable kitten, which has no English equivalent: oo-kah-huh-sdee

Credit: Jamie from East Brady, PA

View short films 


Each of these 4 independent filmmakers poignantly depict the work being done by individuals to preserve their native cultures and their original languages. How does each short movie suggest answers to the following questions:

Why do we need to preserve these disappearing languages? 

How can Native Americans provide the basis for preventing the extinction of their words and traditions?

What role do the younger generations play in creating a bridge between the tribal elders and their knowledge in order to preserve the language, customs and rituals that is their heritage?

Marie's Dictionary

Produced by:Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee
This short documentary tells the story of Marie Wilcox, the last fluent speaker of the Wukchumni language and the dictionary she created in an effort to keep her language alive.

Haenyo, the women of the sea

Éloïc Gimenez
This film focuses on the life of the Haenyo, the diving women of Jeju in South Korea, with 7 idiomatic expressions from the island.

We Still Live Here As Nutayunean

Produced by:Anne Makepeace
The people of the Wampanoag tribe work to preserve their language.

Smoke That Travels [Trailer]

Produced by:Kayla Briët
What happens when a story is forgotten? I'm making a film about my dad, Gary Wiski-ge-amatyuk, my family, and what it means to be Native American today.


Peata Melbourne

By: Hinerangi from Rotorua


By: Brittany and Jasmine from Banks, Ala.

Dante Alighieri

By: Camilla from Cairo
Dante Alighieri contributed to Italian culture by his use of the Tuscan language instead of Latin.



By: Brianna from San Diego
The man who gave his people the Cherokee alphabet

Trunk Language

By: Julio Lukwago of Uganda


A digital solution when children can’t find books in their mother tongue

By: Alexis Xydias, Correspondent, CS Monitor

Meanwhile... in Senegal, elementary schools are experimenting with teaching students in the native language of Wolof

By: CS Monitor Staff

How a headmaster is trying to save an ancient language

By: Alexis Xydias, Correspondent, CS Monitor

Preserving Language: Rapper and Rabbi revive Love Songs in Old Spanish Ladino Dialect

By: Dinah Kraft, Correspondent, CS Monitor

One woman who’s easing the language barrier for immigrants

By: Anh Nguyet Tranh


Sequoyah's greatest achievement was the invention of a method for his people to write and read their own language. This great leader was celebrated not as a warrior, but as a man of ideas. Today, a statue of Sequoyah stands in the Capitol building in Washington D.C. He is a truly outstanding example of an Indian who made his mark on history.

Credit: Public Domain


1 "Lexical Facts." The Economist

2 "Why We Must Save Dying Languages." BBC Future.


Organizer created on 2/18/2018 1:16:13 PM by Staff

Last edited 2/14/2019 8:01:29 PM by victoria murphy