Did you know that 21 February 2018 was Mother Language Day? An initiative born in Bangladesh forged from a fight for the recognition of the Bangla language, endorsed by the 1999 UNESCO General Conference and celebrated globally since 2000, it’s a wonderful story.
When we consider that we live in a world of 7 continents comprising 195 countries which speak in the region of 7,100 languages, not to mention the myriad of dialects, this is a great cause for celebration.
It was refreshing to see UNESCO’s Director General say “A language is far more than a means of communication; it is the very condition of humanity. Our values, our beliefs and our identity are embedded within. It is through language that we transmit our experiences, our traditions and our knowledge. The diversity of languages reflects the incontestable wealth of our imaginations and ways of life.” How true.
The provision of multilingual education and the protection of culture and heritage which it represents, has arguably never been more important in a world where the population is so transient, and migration and immigration are daily occurrences within local and global society.
According to UNESCO, an astounding 40% of the global population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand. This presents a real threat to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4, targets 4.6 and 4.7 which are to “ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy” and, “ensure that all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development….” The thorny issues of inclusion and access to avoid marginalisation and exclusion are once again at the forefront.
It is interesting to note that according to the Convention against Discrimination in education 1960, for the purposes of the Convention, the term discrimination includes “any distinction, exclusion, limitation or preference which is based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic condition or birth has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing equality of treatment in education…” There are of course exclusions.
For those migrating to different countries, outside of the challenges relating to travel, safety, accommodation and food, although this focus is to be applauded, it must be recognised that these adaptations are within the context of communication with the resident population, its systems and culture. The prospect of an additional language barrier is a formidable one.
I recently read that in a few generations half of all languages will no longer exist. The importance of being the custodian of one’s mother language and culture is a privilege as is the celebration of one’s origins, history and life journey. To be able to pass these on as an inheritance to the next generation, is a true honour.
As a migrant, learning about one’s new living environment and being able to access and contribute to local education amongst other systems is vital to personal and generational progression. It is truly a multinational and multilingual collaborative effort.
Shepperson & Shepperson Consultants Ltd
Source: Lesley Shepperson / www.Zongonews.com / firstname.lastname@example.org