UNESCO Celebrates International Mother Language Day
International Mother Language Day, which the international community has been celebrating with UNESCO every 21 February for the past six years, provides an especially meaningful opportunity for debate and action to promote all the languages spoken on our planet.
As a medium for conveying knowledge, for learning, dialogue and expressing an individual culture's view of reality, each of the six thousand languages currently spoken on earth - by reason of its own irreplaceable originality - helps nurture and enrich the cultural heritage of humankind.
This sixth International Mother Language Day draws attention and pays special tribute to the Braille and sign language used by millions of women and men of all ages and across every continent as tools of integration, communication, learning, information and expression.
To this effect, an exhibition on Braille and Sign languages has been organized jointly by UNESCO, the World Blind Union and the World Federation of the Deaf, from 17 to 23 February 2005, at UNESCO's Headquarters in Paris.
Multilingualism in Cyberspace
Today various forces threaten linguistic diversity on the information networks. Increasingly, knowledge and information are key determinants of wealth creation, social transformation and human development. Language is the primary vector for communicating knowledge and traditions, thus the opportunity to use one's language on global information networks such as the Internet will determine the extent to which one can participate in the emerging knowledge society.
Thousands of languages worldwide are absent from Internet content and there are no tools for creating or translating information into these excluded tongues. Huge sections of the world's population are thus prevented from enjoying the benefits of technological advances and obtaining information essential to their wellbeing and development. Unchecked, this will contribute to a loss of cultural diversity on information networks and a widening of existing socio-economic inequalities.
To address this problem, UNESCO's Communication and Information Sector is actively pursuing interventions in three specific areas:
- formulating policies on issues of equitable access and multilingualism;
- supporting research, development and implementation of pilot projects to facilitate both the access of languages to the Internet and their inter-operability on it;
- raising awareness on the need for wider, more equitable access to multilingual information on the global networks, ensuring the worldwide dissemination of good practices and resources.
UNESCO's Member States are encouraged to develop strong policies to promote and facilitate language diversity on the Internet, create widely-available online tools and applications (such as terminologies, automatic translators, dictionaries, software) for content in local languages and to share best practices and information.
Several communication and information projects promote multilingualism and an equitable, culturally diverse and harmonious Cyberspace. Among them are:
- Initiative B@bel, which seeks to use new ICT to promote wider and more equitable access to information networks by supporting the creation of linguistically and culturally diverse content in cyberspace and offering possibilities for the preservation of endangered languages, and
- Recommendation on the promotion of multilingualism and universal access to Cyberspace, which proposes measures fostering universal access to digital resources and services and facilitating the preservation of cultural and language diversity.
More about Communication and Information activities in the area of multilingualism:
- In Focus on Multilingualism in Cyberspace
- Multilingualism in Cyberspace website
- Initiative B@bel
- Recommendation concerning the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace