This Article is From Feb 21, 2022

International Mother Language Day: History, Significance And Mother Tongues In India

International Mother Language Day is celebrated on February 21 every year since 2000. It was approved by UNESCO.

International Mother Language Day: History, Significance And Mother Tongues In India

International Mother Language Day 2022 theme is 'Using technology for multilingual learning'.

International Mother Language Day is being observed globally on February 21 (Monday) to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The idea to celebrate the International Mother Language Day was approved by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO in 1999.

“UNESCO believes in the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity for sustainable societies. It is within its mandate for peace that it works to preserve the differences in cultures and languages that foster tolerance and respect for others,” the UN body said.


According to UNESCO website, the day was recognised on the initiative of Bangladesh and has been observed throughout the world since the year 2000.

UNESCO expressed concern over the disappearance of languages across the world. It said that globally, 40 per cent of the population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand.

Therefore, as a commitment towards understanding the importance of mother language (or mother tongue), particularly in early schooling, UNESCO decided to observe the day. The International Mother Language Day is a step towards showing commitment to the development of mother language in public life.

This year's theme

The theme of the 2022 International Mother Language Day is “Using technology for multilingual learning: Challenges and opportunities”, said UNESCO.

On the occasion, UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay said in a message, "Technology can provide new tools for protecting linguistic diversity. Such tools, for example, facilitating their spread and analysis, allow us to record and preserve languages which sometimes exist only in oral form. Put simply, they make local dialects a shared heritage. However, because the Internet poses a risk of linguistic uniformization, we must also be aware that technological progress will serve plurilingualism only as long as we make the effort to ensure that it does".

Under 2022 theme, discussions will be held on the potential role of technology to advance multilingual education and support the development of quality teaching and learning for all.

Mother tongues in India

More than 19,500 languages or dialects are spoken in India as mother tongue, according to census data. There are 121 languages which are spoken by 10,000 or more people in India, it further said.

The 121 languages are presented in two parts - languages included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, comprising 22 languages and languages not included in the Eighth Schedule, comprising of 99 languages.

The scheduled languages, as mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, are: Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Bodo, Santhali, Maithili and Dogri.

Of these languages, 14 were initially included in the Constitution. Sindhi language was added in 1967. Thereafter three more languages viz., Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali were included in 1992.

Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santhali were added in 2004.