International Mother Language Day 2018

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2018 Theme: Linguistic diversity and multilingualism count for sustainable development

To foster sustainable development, learners must have access to education in their mother tongue and in other languages. It is through the mastery of the first language or mother tongue that the basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy are acquired. Local languages, especially minority and indigenous, transmit cultures, values and traditional knowledge, thus play an important role in promoting sustainable futures.

International Mother Language Day also supports target 6 of Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): "Ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numera

UNESCO has been celebrating International Mother Language Day for nearly 20 years with the aim of preserving linguistic diversity and promoting mother tongue-based multilingual education.

Linguistic diversity is increasingly threatened as more and more languages  disappear. One language disappears on average every two weeks, taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage.

Nevertheless, progress is being made in mother tongue-based multilingual education with growing understanding of its importance, particularly in early schooling, and more commitment to its development in public life.

This year, UNESCO commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its bold statement that ‘no discrimination can be made on the basis of language’, and celebrates its translation into more than 500 languages.

“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status..”
Article 2, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (link is external), 1948


UNESCO also uses the day to focus on linguistic diversity and multilingualism as an integral part of sustainable development, and in particular to realize targets 4.6 and 4.7 of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) on education.

The SDGs depend on linguistic diversity and multilingualism as a vital contribution to global citizenship education as they promote intercultural connections and better ways of living together.

Event at UNESCO

The event will be marked at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris by a language experts’ debate on the theme "Our languages, our assets” in collaboration with the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (link is external).




How to celebrate Mother Language Day in your school


  • Encourage children to use their mother languages to introduce themselves and talk about their families and culture
  • Celebrate culture by having them read poetry, tell a story or sing a song in their mother tongues. Paintings and drawings with captions in mother languages can also be displayed.


  • See how many mother languages your fellow students speak. Make a survey of the languages by interviewing them and publish the results on internet.
  • Help organize cultural activities such as films, plays and music that celebrate different languages.




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