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International Mother Language Day celebrated for the first time

Paris, February 21[2000] {No.2000-14} - International Mother Language Day, proclaimed by UNESCO’s General Conference in November 1999, was celebrated for the first time today with a ceremony at Organization Headquarters.

The event was opened by UNESCO Director-General KoÔchiro Matsuura who stressed that “by deciding to celebrate mother tongues, UNESCO’s Member States wished to recall that languages are not only an essential part of humanity’s cultural heritage, but the irreducible expression of human creativity and of its great diversity.”

Highlighting the fact that close to 6000 languages are estimated to be spoken in today’s world, Mr Matsuura said: “They testify to humanity’s astounding ability to create tools of communication, to its perception and reflection. They are the mirror of the souls of the societies in which they are born and they reflect the history of their contacts. In this sense, it could be said that all languages are cross-bred.”

He added: “Favouring the promotion of linguistic diversity and the development of multilingual education from an early age helps preserve cultural diversity and the conditions for international understanding, tolerance and mutual respect.”

Vigdis Finnbogadottir, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Languages and former President of Iceland, took part in the first celebration of International Mother Language Day. She highlighted the value of languages both as means of communication and as expressions of culture and identity. Ms Finnbogadottir qualified languages as “humanity’s most precious and fragile treasures.”

In a message read at the ceremony, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed support for International Mother Language Day which, he said, raises awareness among all peoples regarding the value of languages. Reaffirming the capital importance of preserving language diversity, he called for increased efforts to conserve languages as a shared heritage of humanity.

Source: UNESCOPRESS On-line



LitNet: 19 February 2004

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