International Mother Language Day
All of us must have heard of the word “Mother Tongue” or “Mother Language,” right? But do you know what it actually means? Well, “Mother Tongue” or “Mother Language” is the first language or the native language of ours, which also can be meant as the language that we use since we were little. So, if you were born in the—say United States, your mother language is probably or most likely be English, and the same comes if you were born in Indonesia, your mother language is probably or most likely be Bahasa Indonesia. It also depends on the parents. So, if your parents speak Bahasa Indonesia since you were little then, you’ll probably be going to have Bahasa Indonesia as your mother language, and vice versa. It also depends on why you learned the language. Say that the school in your area uses Mandarin for teaching. You’re most likely going to have Mandarin as your mother language. Usually, kids are most likely to have their local language as their mother language, but it also doesn’t mean that kids won’t have their national language as their mother language, and the same comes to the international language, which is English. So, our mother language really depends on who taught it and where it was taught, and it also depends on the importance of learning it.
Do you guys know that every year around the world, there is a special day to celebrate the mother language? So, on November 17th, 1999, UNESCO established that every February 21st is going to be International Mother Language Day. It was also officially claimed by the UN and was celebrated since the year 2000.
Even though it was established by UNESCO, it was not the UNESCO initial idea to celebrate International Mother Language Day. Some sources reported that the idea of having an International Mother Language Day was first said by Rafiqul Islam, a Bangla from Bangladesh who lived in Vancouver, Canada. He took steps in saving the world’s languages from getting extinct by writing a letter to Kofi Annan on January 9th, 1998, about making an International Mother Language Day. Choosing February 21st as the official date for International Mother Language Day actually has a real reason. So, it was set that day because, at that time, there were murders happening in Bangladesh on February 21st, 1952, in fighting for the Bangla language in Dhaka.
Based on the data that was put out by UNESCO, there are actually 7.000 languages around the world. But there is a sad fact behind that. There are at least 2.680 languages that are getting extinct. The main problem is that there are a few people left who are still speaking the language. As reported from the National Library site, one of the requirements for developing a language is that the speakers need to be at least 10.000 people. Other than that, colonization and warfare could be the main reason why the mother language is getting extinct.
In Indonesia, from 1991 until 2017, the Ministry of Education and Culture of The Republic of Indonesia or Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan Republik Indonesia (Kemendikbud) recorded that there are 652 mother languages or local languages in Indonesia. The total was not including the languages from East Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, North Maluku, Papua, and West Papua, which are not identified yet. Sadly, according to the records from Language Development and Cultivation Agency or Badan Pengembangan dan Pembinaan Bahasa Kemendikbud RI, there 13 in a total of extinct local languages which has also been claimed by UNESCO.
There are several things that we can do in order to celebrate this International Mother Language Day. If you don’t understand the local language of yours, then don’t be scared to learn it. You can ask someone to teach you how to speak the language, such as your parents, families, and friends. There’s no need to be embarrassed to learn your local language. Just remember the words of wisdom, “Prioritize your National Language, Love your Local Language, Master Foreign Languages.”
Happy International Mother Language Day!