International Mother Language Day

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Today is the UN International Mother Language Day.

The day has been observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

The date represents the day in 1952 when students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bangla, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan, were shot and killed by police in Dhaka, the capital of what is now Bangladesh.

In May 2009, the United Nations General Assembly called upon Member States ‘to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world’.

Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our heritage. There are somewhere around six or seven thousand languages on Earth today but about half of them have fewer than about 3,000 speakers. Experts predict that even in a conservative scenario, about half of today's languages will become extinct within the next fifty to one hundred years.

The UN believe that ‘All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue’.

It is interesting therefore that yesterday an article on the BBC News Magazine by Tom de Castella, titled ‘Could a new phonetic alphabet promote world peace?’ explored the notion of a universal alphabet to make pronunciation easier and foster international understanding.

The article focuses on a Syrian banker living in the UK called Jaber George Jabbour who has set up an alphabet called SayPu which features none of the indecipherable squiggles of traditional phonetic alphabets.

Mr. Jabbour believes that ‘A simplified universal alphabet would end not only misunderstanding. It would help foster peace around the world’.

SayPu sounds a good idea and an improvement on the existing International Phonic Alphabet, but would it suit languages that don't use the western alphabet and would it contribute to the decline of mother languages?

waat duu yuu think?

21 Feb 2013
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"I ran the trial with a small group of students over three weeks before the summer holidays," she says. "I quickly saw the benefits, and signed up."

King's Leadership Academy, Warrington