Today is February 21 and amid the global pandemic, the world celebrated International Mother Language Day.
The UN educational and cultural agency, UNESCO has encouraged the world population to celebrate the world’s diversity by supporting multilingualism at school and everyday life.
The Director General of the UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay stated in a message on the Mother Day: “This is essential, because 40 per cent of the world’s inhabitants do not have access to education in the language they speak or understand best, it hinders their learning, as well as their access to heritage and cultural expressions.”
She also added, “This year special attention is being paid to multilingual education from early childhood, so that for children, their mother tongue is always an asset.”
It is true on the aggression of globalization and several other reasons too many smaller languages have already disappeared and thousands others are on the verge of extinction.
“For when a language dies, a way of seeing, feeling and thinking the world disappears, and all of the cultural diversity is irretrievable,” Azoulay added.
In a tweet, UNESCO on Sunday said: “When a language disappears, it takes with it an entire cultural & intellectual heritage.”
In another tweet, the United Nations stated: “In many countries, students are taught in a language other than their mother tongue, which compromises their ability to learn effectively.”
Assam is also a linguistically diverse state and many students from smaller communities have no other option rather than starting their learning in other than their mother tongue from early childhood.
In Assam, there are about 55 languages out of which, Assamese and Bodo are acknowledged as official languages and Bengali in few districts in Barak Valley.
Due to the Covid19 pandemic situation, the decadal 2021 population census is yet to be started but from the trends between 2001 and 2011 census, it can be assumed that again the percentage of Assamese, Bodo, Mising and Rabha-speaking people might decrease and the number of Bengali and Hindi-speaking people might increase.
Mother tongue is the identity of a person. Guarding and enriching one’s mother language is always to be prioritized.
The International Mother Language Day recognizes that languages and multilingualism can advance inclusion and the Sustainable Development Goals’ focus on leaving no one behind.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) believes that education, based on the first language or mother tongue, must begin from the early years as early childhood care and education is the foundation of learning.
(The writer is a Dhemaji based environmental activist)