Three individuals and an international organisation have been nominated for the International Mother Language Award, due to be handed over today in a virtual programme by the International Mother Language Institute (IMLI).
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina will present the awards around 3pm, officials of IMLI said.
This is the first iteration of the biennial award, which will recognise four recipients -- two national and two at the international level -- for their contributions towards the practise or preservation of mother tongue.
At the national level, the awardees are national professor Rafiqul Islam and Mathura Bikash Tripura, executive director of Khagrachhari's Jabarang Kalyan Samiti. Internationally, the recipients are Uzbekistani researcher Islaimov Gulom Mirzaevich and The Activismo Lenguan, a Bolivia-based organisation.
The Daily Star spoke to both of the national awardees, who spoke of their relationship with their mother tongue, retelling both their hopes and their frustrations surrounding the languages.
National Professor Rafiqul Islam, former teacher of Dhaka University Bangla department and a prominent educationist, said, "Though constitutionally Bangla is our state language, we have not been able to establish it even after fifty years of our independence."
"We remember its importance only in February, and then forget to take care of it rest of the year."
Regarding the worrying state of education in the country, Prof Rafiqul said, "The Kudrat-i-Khuda Education Commission report is yet to be implemented. The report emphasised that Bangla would have to be the teaching-learning medium from primary to higher level, while English or other languages could be taught as well."
"But we did the contrary as we have Bangla and English medium, English version of Bangla medium, Alia Madrasa, Qawmi Madrasa and many more language-based curricula. We need every language, but are we teaching students any of the language properly? In addition, are we teaching Bangla in a scientific way?" he asked.
The other local awardee, Mathura Bikash, has worked for the preservation, revival and development of his mother tongue and formulated educational activities in his own language, according to a letter issued by IMLI.
Mathura Bikash told The Daily Star, "We still have about 50 indigenous languages in our country. Most of these languages are still in use, but there is little writing on these languages because of the lack of patronage."
"I hope these languages will not be lost, because if a language is lost, then all the knowledge based on that language is also lost."
Ahead of the Indigenous Language Decade, to be celebrated all over the world from 2022 to 2032, Bikash said, "As the initiator of Mother Language Day, Bangladesh will definitely play a pioneering role in this regard, this is our expectation."
According to the IIML, international awardee Uzbekistani Ismailov Gulom Mirzaevich has researched and practised to protect, promote, and revitalise the culture of his mother language Uzbek.
The lone organisational recipient of the award, "The Activismo Lenguas" (Language Activism) was selected for their initiative to promote indigenous languages on the Internet.