The 21st February was the tenth International Mother Language Day. The day was officially named so by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
There are 6,000+ languages around the world and many of them are in increasing danger of becoming extinct. 2,500 languages are officially listed as endangered. According to UNESCO there are 5 levels of language strength. These are, unsafe, definitely endangered, severely endangered, critically endangered and extinct.
Worrying Statistics from the UNESCO
• 200 languages have become extinct in the last 3 generations.
• 538 languages are officially critically endangered
• 502 languages are severely endangered
• 632 languages are definitely endangered
• 607 languages are unsafe
The International Mother Language Day was set up to encourage people to take an interest in there mother tongue language. It is important that we do not let these languages become extinct.
In the UK the dominant language is English but there are many other languages which are slowly disappearing. Welsh is slowly being forgotten despite desperate efforts by the Welsh Assembly Government to increase awareness and even making it compulsory for commercial companies to have their welsh documents translated and interpretation facilities readily available.
Two old UK dialects are already extinct and have been since around the 1950’s. They are Manx (Spoken in the Isle of White) and Cornish (Spoken in Cornwall). Yola which is spoken in southern Ireland is also extinct.
International Mother Language Day is celebrated all over the world. Its objective is to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. Many countries have built monuments to help raise awareness and conserve their mother languages.
It is important that we recognise the importance of our ancestral languages and learn from older generations, keeping as many languages as possible alive.