A decade to prevent the disappearance of 3,000 languages
Around 3,000 languages could disappear before the end of the century, at a rate of one every two weeks. Faced with this alarming reality, the United Nations proclaimed a decade to protect these languages and preserve humanity’s common heritage. On February 21, the UN celebrates International Mother Language Day
The International Decade of Indigenous Languages, which began in early 2022, is based on the principle of self-determination and the right to use and transmit in their own languages, reflecting the ideas and values of indigenous peoples to future generations. It is also based on the equality of indigenous languages vis-à-vis other languages.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples stipulates rights and principles that seek to prevent the extinction of languages that are a source of knowledge, traditions and the world’s cultural heritage.
Of the 7,000 languages currently spoken in the world, 6,700 are indigenous, and it is precisely these that are most threatened.
In 2019, the UN celebrated the International Year of Indigenous Languages. However, this was not enough, so a resolution was adopted to dedicate an entire decade to raise awareness about the disappearance of indigenous languages and the need to preserve and promote them.
This resolution mandates UNESCO to coordinate the global action plan and urges States to establish funds and mechanisms for their preservation, as well as to empower peoples to be custodians of their languages and to take measures to promote them.
The indigenous population constitutes a small part of the population. However, they represent the greatest cultural and linguistic diversity in the world and its territories. The disappearance of their languages would imply an irreplaceable loss of their cosmogony and thus of the common heritage of humanity.
Mother Language Day
On February 21, the UN celebrates International Mother Language Day to highlight that languages and multilingualism can foster inclusion, and that the Sustainable Development Goals focus on leaving no one behind.
The theme of the 2022 International Mother Language Day, “Using technology for multilingual learning: Challenges and opportunities”, will discuss the potential role of technology to advance multilingual education and support the development of quality teaching and learning for all.
This effort should also serve to promote the United Nations International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032) that places multilingualism at the center of indigenous peoples’ development.