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International Mother Language Day

The United Nations estimates that a language disappears every two weeks[1]. Language is the foundation of cultural preservation. It is in mother tongues where intangible cultural knowledge and values are found. Oral traditions, for example, are at the heart of many communities and vital to cultural transmission.

21st February is International Mother Language Day. First observed in 2000 to celebrate linguistic diversity, UNESCO’s theme for this year is ‘Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society’[2].

The national language is usually the language of education in less developed countries, a contributing factor being such learning resources are most readily accessible. As a result, the national language often becomes the lingua franca of many people groups, and without formal mother tongue education, minority languages and cultures are increasingly endangered. Moreover, as members of the larger community, semi-lingual younger generations face challenges from straddling cultural identities. Without the necessary help to bridge the gap between their mother tongue and the national language of education, many become economically disadvantaged. Many of Wycliffe's projects take place with people groups of minority languages, and these communities do not have formal mother tongue language education. The children are also mostly monolingual in their mother tongue, and it is challenging when they enter local schools where the curriculum is taught in the national language.

Most of our projects aim to improve literacy in the community, be it monolingual or bilingual, to benefit their livelihoods. With the local government’s support, some projects can take on multilingual education, where teachers are trained to develop, translate and teach learning materials for reading and writing in both their mother tongue and the national language.

Our hope is to show God’s love through these efforts to address their needs, as well as to equip believers to read Scripture in their own language. As of October 2020, of the 7360 languages in the world, 3415 languages have some form of Scripture: 704 have the complete Bible, 1551 have the New Testament and 1160 have portions of the Bible[3].

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