Yesterday, February 21st, marked International Mother Language Day. It's an annual observance of the diversity in cultures and languages we have around the world. Although this holiday may fly under the radar for many, it is an important date for lots of Canadians, particularly Bengali-speaking ones.
The United Nations describes IMLD as "the date [that] represents the day in 1952 when students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bangla, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan, were shot and killed by police in Dhaka, the capital of what is now Bangladesh."
It was a pivotal event: having their native language recognized was, for many Bengali-speakers, something worth fighting for. Today, each February 21st, or 'ekushey February', International Mother Language Day is a solemn, yet proud celebration. Thousands of Bangladeshis visit the Shaheed Minar, a symbolic monument, to offer flowers and remember those that died for the right to speak their native language.
In a city like Toronto, where non-official languages are spoken almost just as much as English, just imagine how important language really is! It's a huge link to who we are, again, as the UN notes:
"languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage."
For a lot of younger newcomers, in Toronto and different parts of Canada, there can often be a real struggle between maintaining fluency in native languages and adapting to our official languages. Do you speak another language other than English (or French)? In what ways is this language important to you?
Learn more about language and its place in our lives with some titles from the library:
And, of course, don't forget that we carry lots of materials in other languages too - check to see what's available in your mother tongue!