International Mother Language Day (21 Feb 2016)

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela


We’re still talking about all the things we love in February. And how fitting that on the 21st of this month we celebrate International Mother Language Day, because if there’s one thing that we love and believe in, it’s the advancement of mother tongue education.  


International Mother Language Day has been observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity. The date represents a fateful march in 1952 when students in Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan), united for recognition of their language, Bangla, as an additional national Pakistani language. The group was sadly, shot and killed by police. We remember and honour these students who stood up for the preservation of their mother tongue, and used their bravery as inspiration to promote peace and multilingualism.


Much has been written about the importance of mother tongue education, and the consensus  is that children’s first language is the optimal language for literacy and learning throughout primary school (UNESCO, 2008). In South Africa, the issue of language and education was, and is, a controversial one. However, the importance of early education in a child’s mother tongue, cannot be denied and is now finally being supported more frequently. Xander was born out of a belief that mother tongue education is the right and privilege of every child, and through them we hope to support mother tongue education for all South Africa’s children. Mother tongue education also promotes linguistic diversity, which in turn encourages cultural diversity, the first step towards mutual tolerance and understanding.


We have many mother tongues in South Africa, so let us celebrate our diversity while appreciating what makes us unique. We need to appreciate each mother tongue for what is – the perfect means of communication for whomever is using it.


What’s your mother tongue, and in which language did your mother sing you to sleep? Was it  ‘Thula Thula’ or ‘Slaap my kindjie’? Do share your memories of love and the sounds of your mother tongue with us, on Twitter or Facebook.