Annual International Mother Language Day


WATCH the video above.

Commemorating International Mother Language Day 2022

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. Nelson Mandela

Your “mother tongue” can be described as the language of choice used right after you stub your little toe on the side of your coffee table. Ouch! Or is it “Eina?” Perhaps something with a sharper hint of cultural profanity. Understood more technically, a mother tongue is the first language or dialect that a person is exposed to from birth. One is rooted within the language and finds their identity, heritage, self-expression, memory, and understanding – an inner voice. A mother language is a home.

International Mother Language Day, commemorated annually on the 21st of February, celebrates cultural and linguistic diversity, fostering multilingualism and the preservation of mother languages. It was initially inspired by the prominent Language Movement in Bangladesh in 1952, which advocated for recognising the Bengali language as an official language of Bangladesh. As we celebrate this day in South Africa and globally, we continue to reflect on the role of mother tongues in education.

Currently, there remains a limitation to the use of technology to advance and preserve mother tongues other than English, especially in South Africa. Under this year's theme, "Using technology for multilingual learning: Challenges and opportunities", we explore how members of society can take advantage of technology to learn new languages and simultaneously preserve their own.

In this video, we sit with Dr Nomalungelo Ngubane, Director of the Academy for Multilingualism at the University of the Free State, together with Prof Colin Chasi and Mahlaga Molepo, who are prominent voices in the sphere of multilingualism, social justice and indigenous knowledge – to give us insight into the significance of the day and its ties to African education, technology and Ubuntu. We also peek into the realities of so-called "bread-and-butter" languages while exploring theories of translanguaging and regional development. Finally, in the spirit of Valentine’s month, we venture to illustrate the concept of love in its various forms as expressed throughout different languages. What better time to translate the conversation into a language we all identify with? Love.

Office for International Affairs

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