Culture and language have always been closely intertwined, drawing from each other and evolving everyday, adapting with a changing world and fighting to stay relevant. As an international student, my heart aches everyday to hear the language that shaped my childhood rather than the one forced upon me as a mandatory lingua franca.
I yearn for a day when the rise of multilingualism is recognised as the driver of globalization rather than being attributed as a threat to it.
#MCRIMLD22 at first glance seems like a random amalgamation of letters and numbers. Pantone’s Colour of the Year perhaps.
In ten characters, seven letters, two numbers and one symbol, #MCRIMLD22 encompasses a rich history of linguistic and cultural diversity. A promise to continue the fight to promote multilingualism worldwide.
This is International Mother Language Day 2022, Manchester edition.
UNESCO declared in 1999 that from every year then on, the 21st of February would be a day to promote the preservation of language and to serve as a reminder for all those who have died in the name of language itself.
Hyperbole you say? Time for a history lesson.
21st of February 1952 marks a dark day in history. A day when Bangladeshi citizens were met with violence and gunfire in response to protests demanding that Bangla (Bengali) be recognised as a national language of Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in addition to Urdu.
The sacrifice citizens made for their own mother tongue is not forgotten in Bangladesh, where the date 21st of February is a date to remember the Bangla Language Movement and the lives lost in the name of language.
Manchester is another city with a rich cultural heritage. Known as ‘Britain’s City of Languages’, this year marks the 5 year anniversary of International Mother Language Day celebrations. At any one time in Manchester, there are over 200 languages being spoken! Over 40% of young people in the city identify as multilingual with this number increasing every day.
So how can you get involved in International Mother Language Day 2022 in the Community?
- UNESCO streams a webinar every year reflecting on the annual theme, this year the theme is “Using technology for multilingual learning: Challenges and opportunities”. Very relevant during a global pandemic. Catch it live on YouTube!
- The University itself is putting on a number of events this year through Creative Manchester. Check out Mother Languages from my Field Site, put together by current staff and students. Why not attend a virtual roundtable discussion about language learning during COVID-19?
- Manchester City of Literature also has a number of exciting events all over the community continuing into March 2022. Some highlights include learning about the use of translation in literary activism, travel virtually throughout Germany via train and learn some local colloquialisms.
What about something a little more low-key?
- Challenge yourself to only speak in your mother tongue for the day! The children of immigrant parents know this game all too well.
- Teach your housemates some words and phrases in your mother tongue.
- Brush up on your language skills, check out language learning apps like Duolingo or Tiny Cards for a free, low commitment way to learn something new!
- Need an excuse to justify a Netflix binge? Support films and TV shows in minority languages, head over to the ‘International’ tab and discover your new favourite obsession in a foreign language!
What will I be doing? Resolving to correct every mispronunciation of my name for one.
One last thing, Pantone’s Colour of the year is #17-3938, a Veri Peri Manchester purple if you ask me!