Impact of International Mother Language Day on world culture
Language is the medium of culture. Mother language is important for blossoming of education and culture in society. It is the most powerful instrument of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education. They also help to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world, and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue. Unesco promotes mother tongue-based bilingual or multilingual approaches in education -- an important factor for inclusion and quality in education. There are about 6,000 languages in the world, including the many dialects.
With its long and rich literary tradition, Bangla serves to bind together a culturally diverse region. In 1952, when Bangladesh used to be East Pakistan, this strong sense of identity led to the Bangla Language Movement, in which several people braved bullets and died on February 21.The day has now been declared as International Mother Language Day. Research shows that it has a positive impact on learning and learning outcomes.
It may seem that culture has been an unwitting victim of globalisation, which may be the cause of the rising dominance of a few languages and the decline or extinction of many other languages. But if we consider that globalisation is a mixed blessing, we should have a serious look at the way February 21 and the Bangla language have shaped, and continue to shape, our culture. Man's notion of language has a power that belongs to the rational order of myth.
The police opened fire on February 21, 1952, on unarmed peaceful protesters, most of whom were students. Among them Salam, Rafiq, Barkat and Jabber were killed. Those who lost their lives upheld the prestige of nation and became martyrs through defending the right to use their mother-language.
In 1952, police destroyed the Shahid Minar (martyr's monument) without using explosives. Dynamite and other powerful explosives were used on the ominous night of March 25, 1971, when the Pakistan occupation army launched an all-out attack against the unarmed people of Bangladesh. The recognition of human boldness and willingness was the one basic source generating essential power for a people's war that had been peaking slowly but steadily over two decades.
Renowned poet Humayun Kabir rightly pointed out: "When the monument was razed; eternal courage stood awake." Thus February 21 made the freedom movement of 1971 inevitable and ensured our continuation as a free nation in the world.
It is a basic right of humans to be able to use their mother language in their day-to-day life. Bangali freedom fighter Rafiqul Islam, citizen of Canada, and a group of mother language lovers including ten people of seven linguistic cultures of the world, proposed to the secretary General of UN to declare February 21 as International Mother Language Day. Unesco's General Conference in November 1999 proclaimed February 21 as International Mother Language Day to celebrate the world's 6,000 or so languages. This brought glory and prestige to Bangladesh.
However, of the world's 6,000 to 7,000 languages, which are vehicles of collective memory and intangible heritage, more than 50% are likely to die out. 96% of these languages are spoken by only 4% of the world's population. Less than a quarter of all languages in the world are used in education and in cyberspace and most of them are used only occasionally. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given pride of place in the education system and in the public domain and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.
Bangladesh is named after its national language Bangla. No other country has sacrificed lives for its national language. The national anthems of both India and Bangladesh were written in Bangla by Nobel Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore. International Mother Language Day celebrates our pride as a country that fought for independence on the issue of language and succeeded. The main inspiration of this day is a song: "Can I forget February 21 reddened with the blood of my brothers?"
International Mother Language Day is observed as Martyrs' Day in Bangladesh because we have attached a symbolic value to this day. It nourished the concepts of democracy and secularism. It has been observed as a great national event all over Bangladesh, and also beyond the frontiers of Bangladesh. It is also observed in India, UK, USA, Canada and elsewhere, wherever there are Bangla speaking people. This day also highlights some values, events and issues which lead to a bright and peaceful future. This day is intended to generate a healthy awareness in the people of the world.
Our love for the Bangla language is traditional. It is based on very deep sentiments. But it is impossible to deny that it was not this love alone that had led us to join the language movement in swelling numbers. There was hatred as well. Hatred against injustice, against exploitation. It teaches us to be anti-colonial and anti-feudal in character.
It was clearly anti-feudal in content inasmuch as it tried to win for the people their inalienable right to use their own language in state affairs. The new awareness made people conscious about their material existence, tearing the veils of false hopes and comforts. Its creativeness was immeasurable. For it had touched and released the youth of the nation.
International Mother Language Day is particularly important in the sense that it has a cultural significance. It has placed Bangladesh in the cultural world with a highly positive image. As the people of Bangladesh we should now try to develop our mother language further to achieve a position in the community of world languages. We should love, foster and promote Bangla, our own mother language. We should not gratify in any kind of blind patriotism. We should devotedly serve our own language.
One of our greatest achievements, the International Mother Language Day, is not only an achievement for the Bangla speaking people, but also a pride for the people of the world. By observing this day, we can feel the importance of our mother tongue. It plays an important role in all aspect of public life, but especially in education and in culture. It is the foundation upon which all human beings develop their personality from the moment they draw their first breath, and which supports them throughout their lives. It is the medium for learning respect for oneself, one's history and one's culture and, above all, for others and their differences. We can help our own language to flourish, and help other small languages to survive in their own right. So it has taught us to respect the smaller nationalities.
International Mother Language Day teaches the people of the world not to surrender to evil forces. It inspires the nations of the world to show due respect to their mother tongue. So, national and regional language strategies should be promoted to create a harmonious environment for all the languages of the world. This will then justify the importance of globalisation.