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Celebrate International Mother Language Day on Feb 21

International Mother Language Day

What I love most about living in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia is the cultural diversity that surrounds us. I can walk down any street and hear conversations in at least three languages before I hit the end of a block. Language identifies us. Traditions, memories, modes of thinking and expression, all stem from common language.

Unfortunately, languages are under threat due to globalization. According to the United Nations, 43%, or 6000 languages spoken worldwide are endangered. Every two weeks, a language disappears, taking an entire cultural heritage along with it. Linguistic diversity is shrinking.

Progress is being made in multilingual education, with a growing understanding of its importance. The UNESCO has observed International Mother Language Day throughout the world since 2000. The idea to celebrate International Mother Language Day was the initiative of Bangladesh. It was approved at the 1999 UNESCO General Conference.  In Bangladesh February 21st is the anniversary of the day when Bangladeshis fought for recognition for the Bangla language.

Since then there has been an increased commitment to its development in public life – including the public libraries of the Lower Mainland. Libraries in BC have collections in different languages including books, music, newspapers, magazines, and on-line resources. NewToBC has created a comprehensive search to find the language collections of each library.

You can find specific resources available by library as well.

The Surrey Libraries offer resources for patrons in Chinese, French, Hindi, Punjabi and Spanish. You can also visit your local library to browse the shelves for these languages and others.

The Vancouver Public Libraries collects reading material for adults, teens and children in sixteen languages other than English. Their branch locations have language collections that represent the demographics in their neighbourhoods, while the Central Library offers materials in VPL’s full range of languages. They consider community input, availability and use when choosing materials.

The Burnaby Public Libraries offers World language collections in children’s books in Chinese, French, Korean and Spanish as well as a growing sample of books in many other world languages as well as My First Language Kits – bright red cloth bags filled with a selection of children’s pictures books and more. They have kits in over 25 languages.

The North Vancouver District Public Library offers language collections in French, Spanish, Chinese, Persian and Korean.

The West Vancouver Memorial Library offers books in 中文 Deutsch 日本語 Español Français 한국의  and فارسی as well as Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Persian and Spanish newspapers and magazines.

The Fraser Valley Regional Libraries have established a World Languages Collection containing 14 different languages. The collection is designed to meet the needs of native speakers of a variety of European, Asian and Middle Eastern languages.

Celebrate your language. Give feedback to your local libraries to let them know what languages are needed in your area. Let’s, collectively, keep our traditions, memories, and expressions alive through our mother language.