by Maude Boyer, IB MYP and DP French Teacher
The idea to officially recognize International Mother Language Day was the initiative of Bangladesh. It was approved at the 1999 UNESCO General Conference and has been observed throughout the world since 2000.
What is International Mother Language Day?
February 21st is the official date of International Mother Language Day proclaimed by UNESCO since 2000. Although linguistic diversity is part of a daily experience in a truly international school, celebrating it on a special day raises awareness on the importance of preserving and valuing linguistic diversity and taking pride in our mother tongue.
How did the idea to celebrate IMLD at YIS start?
Projects start with an idea and a willingness to make it happen. I had this desire of creating an event related to International Mother Language Day at YIS. Four teachers joined me on this journey : Jennifer Gibson-Millis, Isabelle Goessens, Hannah Greaves and Jasmin Wandell. We formed a committee that brainstormed activities in which students and the school community could celebrate linguistic and cultural diversity at YIS. Different ideas came into our minds: videos in which students and the YIS community can say greetings in their mother tongue, live performances during lunch time, posters, a song playlist in different languages created by students and staff, sentences in different languages on white boards. The next step was to put all those ideas together and make it happen.
How is it linked with the IB and GCD?
Languages and cultures are directly related: by promoting linguistic diversity we also promote cultural diversity. International mindedness, intercultural understanding and multilingualism is one of the IB missions – that is why celebrating all the different languages spoken in our school community is meaningful, valuable, necessary, and supports our desire for diversity, equity and inclusion. Intercultural communication is also one of the core values of the Global Citizen Diploma in which multilingualism plays an important role.
How Did We Celebrate At YIS
On February 21st, students were welcomed by music of different languages and countries when entering the school. During tutor classes, we watched a 5-minute video listening to different greetings in different languages spoken by students and staff at YIS. That was an uplifting experience to start the day with! On a whiteboard in the hall, students wrote words of encouragement in different languages. It was impressive to see the different letters and ideograms used by students at our school. During MS and HS lunches we listened to a poem in Ukrainian, poems in Spanish, a Japanese rap, karaoke in Italian, a poem in Mandarin, a song in French by two Québécois singers! Students reacted with enthusiasm to these creative performances and demonstrated an appreciation to hear and be surrounded by different sounds, words and styles from different languages and cultures. I am pleased and proud that the idea of celebrating International Mother Language Day was welcomed by the YIS community. Videos of the various performances can be seen in YIS Photos.
Thank you to students, staff and the school community who participated actively in this event.