International Mother Language Day

Why is International Mother Language Day celebrated?

International Mother Language Day is celebrated every year on 21st February. The main purpose of celebrating this day is to promote the awareness of language and cultural diversity all across the world. It was first announced by UNESCO on November 17, 1999

International Mother Language Day seeks to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The day also seeks to support quality education, unity, diversity and international understanding. Language is the most effective way humans have of communicating with one another and acts as a powerful instrument in the preservation and development of cultures and ethnicities. According to UNESCO, as of 2018, about 2,500 languages, and thus their cultures, are currently at risk of extinction within a few generations.


International Mother Language day was proclaimed by UNESCO in November of 1999 and was first observed on February 21, 2000. The chosen date commemorates the date on which a group of university students were killed by the Pakistani Police in Dhaka (now Bangladesh) for using their mother language

Which countries celebrate International Mother Language Day?

International Mother Language Day (IMLD) is a worldwide annual observance held on 21 February to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and promote multilingualism

21 February was declared to be the International Mother Language Day by UNESCO in 1999. It has been observed throughout the world since 21 February 2000. The declaration came up in tribute to the Language Movement done by the Bangladeshis (then the East Pakistanis).

When Pakistan was created in 1947, it had two geographically separate parts: East Pakistan (currently known as Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (currently known as Pakistan). The two parts were very different to each other in sense of culture, language, etc. The two parts were also separated by India in between.

international mother language day

In 1948, the then Government of Pakistan declared Urdu to be the sole national language of Pakistan even though Bengali or Bangla was spoken by the majority of people combining East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (now Pakistan) The East Pakistan people protested, since the majority of the population was from East Pakistan and their mother language was Bangla. They demanded Bangla to be at least one of the national languages, in addition to Urdu. The demand was raised first by Dhirendranath Datta from East Pakistan on the 23 February, 1948, in the constituent Assembly of Pakistan.

To demolish the protest, the government of Pakistan outlawed public meeting and rallies. The students of the University of Dhaka, with the support of the general public, arranged massive rallies and meetings. On 21 February 1952, police opened fire on rallies. Salam, Barkat, Rafiq, Jabbar and Shafiur died, with hundreds of others injured. This is a rare incident in history, where people sacrificed their lives for their mother tongue.

Since then Bangladeshis celebrate the International Mother Language Day as one of their tragic days. They visit the Shaheed Minar, a monument built in memory of the martyrs and its replicas to express their deep sorrow, respect and gratefulness to them.

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