Yesterday (well, today if you’re living in the past like the USA) is/was International Mother Language Day, and I thought I’d write some thoughts about it.
My mother tongue is English. I sometimes wish it wasn’t, but it is just an accidence [sic] of history that it is so, and in terms of the geopolitical state of the 21st century, a pretty good advantage to have. English, for various historical reasons, is our world’s dominant language and conveys huge benefits for those who possess it. It also achieved that dominance through a complicated and ethically-fraught history involving a lot of colonialism, subjugation, and linguistic oppression.
Which is why IMLD matters. We still live in a world where linguistic prejudices are very strong, and often only marginally different from racism. We still live in a world where the freedom and the opportunity to speak one’s mother language without discrimination is denied, under-threat, and contested. We continue to live in a world where, for reasons ‘neutral’ but also many reasons that could be changed, minority languages are under threat and disappearing rapidly. The support and use of minority languages is, in my view, an issue of justice and fundamental human rights.
So I commend you to read the Background page on IMLD, and consider what part you might play in the support of linguistic diversity and preservation.