Mother language means the language you learn when you are a child, mostly the language(s) of your parents.
These are some of the major language branches of the world. There are about 6000 to 7000 languages in the world. Just like the natural world, there are endangered languages and extinct languages. In Philippines there are 120 languages, two are official, 12 are auxiliary official and four are no longer spoken. Most of the languages in Philippines are Malayo-Polynesian.
In the same way that biodiversity is important for the balance of life on our planet, language diversity is important for the balance of cultures. Language is a powerful instrument to preserve our heritage. It inspires cultural solidarity among nations. Learning in their mother language is the right of the children, because it can improve their learning. In many countries, not all children get the opportunity to learn in their mother tongue.
UNESCO (United Nation’s Education, Scientific, Cultural Organization) promotes Multilanguage education and attempts to protect languages from extinction. International Mother Language Day is an observance held annually on 21 February worldwide to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. It was first announced by UNESCO on 17 November 1999 and is being observed since 2000 all over the world.
Bangla is spoken mainly in Bangladesh and West Bengal, a province of India.
In 1947, British India was divided into two countries, India and Pakistan on the basis of religion. The East and West Pakistan was separated by 1300 kilometres. Although Bangla was the language of the majority, Muslim League (the ruling party) tried to establish Urdu as the national language of Pakistan.
In 1948, the Governor General of Pakistan declared in Dhaka University “the state language of Pakistan will be Urdu and no other language.” The students shouted “NO.” The conflict continued over the years and on 21st February 1952, all the parties of East Bengal decided to hold a protest against the decision.
The day before all processions and meetings were banned, but the students took out processions. The police shot tear gas and a riot broke out in the Dhaka University area.
Police opened fire in front of the Dhaka Medical College Hostel and five persons died. The news of killings spread like wildfire and thousands of people gathered in the Dhaka University to offer prayers for the martyrs. When they started processions, police again opened fire and four persons were killed.
Through the night of 23rd February, the students constructed the first monument to remember the martyrs. The next day government deployed police and military and almost all the students and political leaders were arrested. The fight continued till in 29 February 1956, when Bangla was recognised as the second official language of Pakistan. However, the West Pakistan continued to hold important positions in the government and economic development also focused on West Pakistan. The language movement expanded to a movement of people’s rights and democratic processes, finally leading to the nine months War of Liberation in 1971 and the creation of an independent Bangladesh.
To commemorate the martyrs of the language movement a monument, known as Shahid Minar, was built in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. There are many monuments all over the country and every year early in the morning of 21st February, thousands of people walk to these monuments barefoot, singing a song Ekushey February and laying flowers to remember those who died and who suffered during the language movement.
The students and artists work all day long to paint the roads beautifully towards the Shahid Minar.
The Government of Bangladesh proposed to UNESCO to identify 21st February as International Mother Language Day as a tribute to the language movement in Bangladesh. In its resolution UNESCO said “21st February be proclaimed International Mother Language Day throughout the world to commemorate the martyrs who sacrificed on this very day in 1952.”