International Mother Language Day promotes linguistic cultural diversity

Hamtramck City Councilman Nayeem Choudhury says the day is a time to remember those who sacrificed their lives to preserve the language and free people.

Hamtramck City Councilman Nayeem Choudhury with State Rep. Abraham Aiyash and community members at Zussman Park observance of International Mother Language Day.

Feb. 21 is International Mother Language Day. It was first recognized by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1999. The day has been celebrated since 2000 worldwide to promote linguistic and cultural diversity.

The observance was introduced to UNESCO by Bangladesh in honor of “language martyrs” who died on Feb. 21, 1952, to preserve the Bangla language in East Pakistan. The battle over that issue helped the country establish its independence in 1971.

Hamtramck City Councilman Nayeem Choudhury says the day is a time to remember those who sacrificed their lives to preserve the language and free people.

“We wanted to remember who have sacrificed for us. We speak Bangla at home with others. So we think it’s our responsibility to remember, commemorate those who sacrificed [their lives to preserve their native language]. It’s culturally, traditionally and enriching and empowering our mother tongues,” he says.

He says as a Bangladeshi American he continues to honor his native language by speaking Bangla with family and community members so it is not forgotten.

The city first passed a resolution to observe International Mother Language Day in 2014. Late Sunday night, community members gathered in front of the Hamtramck City Hall at the Shaheed Minar Monument in Zussman Park to commemorate those who lost their lives during the Dhaka University protest against Pakistani officials. People adorn the monument with flowers and wreaths.

“Any country, anyone who sacrifices for the land or their mother tongue or … country … should not be forgotten. We wanted to commemorate and remember those who sacrifice for our country, our lives, to free people and that should be celebrated,” he says.

UNESCO reports “at least 43% of the estimated 6,000 languages spoken in the world are endangered.”

The City of Warren passed an observance to recognize International Mother Language Day for the first time on Friday.

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Author

  • Nargis Rahman

    Nargis Hakim Rahman is the Civic Reporter at 101.9 WDET. Rahman graduated from Wayne State University, where she was a part of the Journalism Institute of Media Diversity.