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Today is UNESCO's International Mother Language Day (IMLD) which is intended to "promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism". The UN have just launched UN Language Days, "a new initiative which seeks to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity as well as to promote equal use of all six of its official working languages throughout the Organization." There's a press release about IMLD here [.pdf] from the Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity (RNLD).02-19-mother-lang.jpg [ from http://www.un.org/News/dh/photos/2010/02-19-mother-lang.jpg].

The date was chosen to commemorate the deaths of Bangla students on 21 February 1952 who were protesting the then government's decision to make Urdu the only official language of East and West Pakistan. And the Bangla community continues to honour it - as Amar Ekushey day - in Australia through the Ekushe Academy.

Here are some ways it's being honoured around the world. In London, SOAS is running Endangered Languages Week, with talks, displays, discussions, films, lectures and workshops on the general theme of "sustainability: can the world's languages be sustained, and if so, which ones, and how?" In Melbourne, RNLD showed the film In Languages We Live — Voices of the World [.pdf] last Thursday, Kununurra is showing it twice, and we're showing it at Sydney University on Wednesday 24th (3.30 pm). [BTW, RNLD has an excellent set of links to news on endangered languages]. In Alice Springs, there's said to be a display of Indigenous language materials and posters thanks to the Town Library and linguists.

And in Canada, the Winter Olympics had commentary in several native Canadian languages including Cree, (see here) - but complaints about not enough French in the opening ceremony...).

As of 23:16 Saturday 20th, Google News had stories about International Mother Language Day from Armenia, Azerbaijan (a school contest whose title provides the blog post heading), Bangladesh, Canada, Dubai, India, Pakistan, the Philippines and the US. Not to mention Benetton's logo for IMLD, and IMLD the t-shirt.

Stories from Australia? Well, ABC Kimberley, good on them, have Vanessa Mills (19 February, 2010) on Celebrating and protecting languages other than English which involves discussion with a Nyikina speaker, Jeannie Wabi, and linguists Colleen Hattersley and Frances Kofod. A book of Nyikina stories is coming out, thanks to the Nyikina Language Hub in Broome.

Elsewhere... Good news is that Greg Dickson managed to get an article on the NT government's 'First 4 hours in English' policy published in "Green", the national magazine of the Greens party. There has also been a "money or monolingual mouth" story suggesting that the number of Japanese tourists in Australia is declining because we Australians are rude to them, and we stick to English, the mother tongue of most of us. In major public places we don't have enough information in foreign languages. (Against this, Tourism Australia goes for the money, not the mouth - countering that there are plenty of cheaper places than Australia for tourists, and the Japanese economy has suffered greatly in the GFC.)

Comments

Commodification of endangered languages rears its ugly head again! -- on the Dutch t-shirt site you mentioned, it is said of the owner Michelle Hamman: "On a trip to Australia, she picked up the term 'dadirri', an aboriginal word combining the concepts of contemplation, listening and awareness. She came home and turned it into a new T-shirt design."

Hmmm, now which of the 250 Australian Aboriginal languages was it Michelle, and did you get that spelling right? Oh, I see now, it comes from the illlustrious writings of Miriam Rose Ungenmerr (see here, here, among others). Ah, yes, there's also this web site for a horse farm on the South Coast of New South Wales, which tells us: "The name of our farm, ‘Dadirri,’ was suggested by Dr. Carol Birrell. From a Northern Territory Aboriginal language, the word means deep listening, or having the patience to wait and listen until things become clear."

Glad we cleared all that up -- now let's get back to making more money off those cute sounding languages.

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The Transient Building, symbolising the impermanence of language, houses both the Linguistics Department at Sydney University and PARADISEC, a digital archive for endangered Pacific languages and music.
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