International Mother Language Day 2020

Let's celebrate our cultures and speak in our mother languages on International Mother Language Day, opens a new window! This Friday, 21 February is International Mother Language Day, proclaimed by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Background of International Mother Language Day

UNESCO's initiated International Mother Language Day to raise awareness of language issues and preserve linguistic diversity. As a system of spoken and written symbols, language enables humans to express themselves and interact with each other in a social group. Although language has a crucial role in human evolution, its origin, spread and variation are mysterious. Explanations can be found in the biblical literature of Tower of Babel, opens a new window and linguists' studies such as  The Truth About Language , opens a new windowand 1000 Languages: The Worldwide History of Living and Lost Tongues, opens a new window. Surprisingly, both religious and linguistic beliefs account for the existence of linguistic diversity.

However, "...at least 43% of the estimated 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered." The disappearance of languages can cause serious consequences as language has multiple functions and interacts with every aspect of human life in society. Not only does language support individuals in daily interactions, identity expression and emotional release, but also it serves as a medium recording history and cultural heritage. In November 1999, the General Conference of UNESCO proclaimed 21 February to be International Mother Language Day and urged its member nations to celebrate linguistic diversity and prevent endangered languages from disappearing.

Linguistic Diversity in New Zealand

In New Zealand, linguistic diversity is closely related to demographic dynamics relating to early settlement history and current immigration policies. The New Zealand Censuses of Population and Dwellings 2001, 2006 and 2013 show that languages spoken in New Zealand, opens a new window have changed over time. Beside English, Te Reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language - three official languages - there has been growth in international languages spoken in New Zealand.

Various events and activities are held to respond to increasing linguistic diversity. Languages are recognised through official language week celebrations. In 2019, the Māori Language Commission launched a programme to celebrate International Year of Indigenous Languages in Aotearoa, opens a new window. On International Mother Language Day 2019, English Language Partners New Zealand (ELPNZ), opens a new window and Community Languages Association of New Zealand (CLANZ) created and distributed a poster featuring the phrase “Our people, our cultures, our languages” in 29 languages, including Māori, NZ Sign Language and English. The Office of Ethnic Communities provided resources to guide community groups to hold a language celebration, opens a new window

Multilinguistic resources and programmes at Christchurch City Libraries

"Christchurch City Libraries actively practices biculturalism and supports diversity and aims to be representative of all our Christchurch communities." We provide multilinguistic resources, collections, services and programmes to meet library users' needs. 

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