21 February 2014 - Whether English, Dutch, German, Mandarin or Finnish, every language represents a cultural and linguistic identity, with important consequences for education and social integration.
The International Mother Language Day stresses protection and promotion of mother languages as keys to global citizenship and authentic mutual understanding. Understanding and speaking more than one language leads to a greater understanding of the wealth of cultural interactions in our world.
Recognizing local languages enables more people to make their voices heard and take an active part in their collective fate.
Languages, with their complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, education and development, are of strategic importance for people and planet. Yet, due to globalization processes, they are increasingly under threat, or disappearing altogether.
More than 50 per cent of the approximately 7,000 languages spoken in the world are likely to die out within a few generations, and 96 per cent of these languages are spoken by a mere 4 per cent of the world's population. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given pride of place in education systems and the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.
This year, the International Mother Language Day has decided to focus on “Local languages for global citizenship: spotlight on science”, showing how languages ensure access to knowledge and its transmission. While often discarded, local languages are perfectly capable of transmitting the most modern scientific knowledge in a wide range of domains.
According to Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, recognizing these languages can also mean ‘’opening the door to a great deal of often overlooked traditional scientific knowledge to enrich our overall knowledge base.’’
“Local languages constitute the majority of languages spoken across our world in the field of science”, Bokova says in her message. “They are also the most endangered. Excluding languages means excluding those who speak them from their fundamental human right to scientific knowledge.”
The Brussels based United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe - UNRIC provides information on UN activities to the countries of the region. It also provides liaison with institutions of the European Union in the field of information. Its outreach activities extend to all segments of society and joint campaigns, projects and events are organized with partners including the EU, governments, the media, NGOs, schools and local authorities.
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