The 21st of February marks the 68th International Mother Language Day, declared by United Nations through UNESCO in honour of the Bengali language movement in Bangladesh in 1952.

The UN marked the day after protesting students were killed in numbers in Bangladesh for demanding the recognition of their mother tongue.

The International Mother Language Day is aimed at creating awareness and appreciation for cultural and linguistic diversity around the world.

In South Africa Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa celebrated the day with hundreds of learners in KwaMbonambi, in KwaZulu-Natal.

Mthethwa first visited Qalakabusha Correctional Centre where he donated books to inmates and encouraged a culture of reading which is critical in instilling important social values.

He says, “Reading books can improve our behaviour and expand our knowledge.”

In a tweet Mthethwa says, “The world celebrates International Mother Language Day which is aimed at building peaceful, inclusive & sustainable societies through the promotion of cross-border and shared languages. Let’s work together to promote cultural diversity & multilingualism.”

Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) says “The Mother language is the first language people use to communicate, to express their thoughts, their emotions and their ideas.”

PanSALB says the celebration aims to highlight the importance of indigenous languages and to inspire all South Africans, to promote, preserve and protect all South African languages.

PanSALB acting CEO Dr David Maahlamela says, “Mother tongue is a language in which one can be able to make sense of everything…”

Mthethwa adds saying “All languages have a a dual character. They are both a means of communication and a carrier of culture. If a language is lost, it is a great loss of intellectual independence, spiritually, soul, cultural independence and well-being.”

In the podcast below acting PanSALB CEO Dr David Maahlamela speaks on the importance of preserving the Mother Tongue.