The United Nations has been celebrating International Mother Language Day since February 2000, to promote linguistic and cultural diversity. It also remembers events such as the killing of four Bangladeshi students in 1952, who campaigned to make their mother tongue, Bengali, the official language.

While globalisation helps to unite people from all corners of the world, it also threatens the existence of less common languages.

Did you know?
• There are approximately 6,000 languages spoken in the world.
• 43% of these languages are endangered.
• 40% of world population doesn’t have access to an education in a language they speak or understand.
• Less than 100 languages are used in the digital world.

Language is much more than just words. It carries with it traditions, memories, history and unique cultural expressions. These all risk being lost if languages disappear.

Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Irish are native languages in Britain but for many centuries they were not recognised. Henry VIII, for example, banned the use of Welsh in 1536 and made English the official language of the courts, the church and the schools. Now, Welsh, or Cymraeg, is taught in schools and over 500,000 people consider it their mother tongue. Just over 1% of Scottish people speak Gaelic, and most of those are in the islands in the north-east of the country. In Ireland less than 2% of the population speak Irish daily but if you travel to the Emerald Isle you can see road signs and information written in the native language.

Activity

Answer Keys