International Mother Language Day and the Importance of Native Language

Today, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) celebrates International Mother Language Day (IMLD), under the theme “Toward Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education.” IMLD is recognized annually on Feb. 21 and strives to foster sustainable development by providing learners access to education in their mother tongue and in other languages.

This year, UNESCO noted, “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 playing an important role in promoting sustainable futures.”

Additionally, UNESCO cites these advantages to multilingual education:

  • Multilingual education increases access, while promoting equal opportunities for those speaking minority and/or indigenous languages – especially girls and women
  • It emphasizes the quality of teaching and learning, with a focus on understanding and creativity
  • It reinforces cognitive learning, leading to positive outcomes in the learner’s life
  • It encourages genuine communication from the beginning
  • It facilitates participation and action in society and gives access to new knowledge and cultural expressions, harmonizing global and local points of view

At PWNA, we understand the importance of Native languages and the preservation of related history, culture and education, especially related to the Native Americans we serve. The San Felipe Pueblo, for example, is home to 3,300 people, many of whom have retained and speak the Keresan language. Located in the picturesque pueblos of New Mexico, this community both honors and utilizes its mother language.

In addition to many of the tribal communities we serve, we have seen the importance of Native language discussed in the media, and we recommend learning more through these stories:

What do you consider your mother language? How has it helped you learn and grow?

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