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International Mother Language Day 2023 – February 21

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International Mother Language Day (IMLD) - February 21 2023United Nations (UN)’s International Mother Language Day (IMLD) is annually observed across the globe on February 21 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity, as well as multilingualism.

  • 21st February 2023 marks the observance of the 24th edition of IMLD.

The theme of International Mother Language Day 2023 is “Multilingual education – a necessity to transform education”.

Aim: To preserve traditional knowledge and cultures through sustainable methods and support multilingualism in societies.


i. International Mother Language Day was established on the initiative of Bangladesh.

ii. In 1999, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) General Conference approved the observance of February 21 as the IMLD and has been observed worldwide since 2000.

iii. The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the resolution A/RES/56/262, titled Multilingualism, on 9th April 2002 and formally recognized February 21 of every year as International Mother Language Day.

Objectives of IMLD 2023:

i. The main goal of IMLD 2023 is to recognise the role of actors in education and other relevant fields in promoting multilingualism and multilingual education, which will help to advance Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 and its objectives.

ii. The more specific aims of IMLD 2023 are:

  • Increase awareness of the transformative potential of multilingualism and multilingual education among those involved in education, including teachers and decision-makers in that field.
  • Support actors in education, teachers, and education policy-makers in the strengthening of multilingualism and multilingual education by highlighting and sharing promising and innovative policies and practices.

UN and Multilingualism:

i. Multilingualism is especially important to the United Nations as it facilitates multilateral diplomacy and is an essential factor in peaceful communication among people.

ii. It ensures the effective participation of all in the organisation’s work by promoting dialogue, tolerance, and understanding, as well as greater transparency, efficiencies, and better outcomes.

  • The official languages of the UN: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish
  • The working languages of the UN Secretariat: English and French.


i. On the occasion of International Mother Language Day, UNESCO hosts a face-to-face event on Multilingual education.

ii. It explores the potential of multilingualism to transform education from a lifelong learning perspective and in different contexts, including in Small Island Developing States, crisis and emergency situations, and the promotion of gender equality.

International Mother Language Award 2023:

Dr Mahendra Kumar Mishra, an outstanding linguist and folklorist from Odisha, is to receive UNESCO’s International Mother Language Prize 2023 in recognition of his lifetime contributions to the promotion of the mother language in India.

  • He was conferred the award by Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister (PM) of Bangladesh, at the International Mother Language Institute (IMLI), Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 21st February 2023.
  • He is the first Indian to receive the UNESCO award for mother language promotion.

Multilingual education:

i. UNESCO promotes the mother-tongue-based mainstreaming of multilingual education.

ii. For those who speak non-dominant languages, languages of minority groups, or indigenous languages, it makes it easier for them to receive education and be included in it.

iii. By providing access to new knowledge and cultural expressions, Multilingual education facilitates participation and action towards sustainable development.

  • It ensures both local and global interaction on traditional and indigenous issues.

About the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):

Director-General- Audrey Azoulay
Headquarters- Paris, France
Establishment- 1945 (came into force in 1946)
Members- 193 Members and 11 Associate Members.