Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

Message from the UNESCO Director General on the occasion of International Mother Language Day

“The ninth celebration of International Mother Language Day on February 21 is of particular importance in this year of 2008, proclaimed International Year of Languages by the United Nations General Assembly, which has entrusted UNESCO with the task of coordinating it.”

UNESCO director general Koïchiro Matsuura thus began his address to the first edition of International Mother Language Day.

Matsuura stated that “far from being a field reserved for analysis by specialists, languages lie at the heart of all social, economic, and cultural life.” In this regard, he noted, “that is the meaning of the slogan launched by UNESCO for the International Year of Languages: ‘Languages Matter!’”

Continuing in the same vein, the director general recalled that languages matter, among other things, “when we want to promote cultural diversity and fight illiteracy, and they matter for quality education, including teaching in the mother language in the first years of schooling.”

Matsuura concluded, “On the occasion of this ninth International Mother Language Day, I am launching an appeal for the importance of linguistic diversity and multilingualism to be acknowledged everywhere: in education, administrative and legal systems, in cultural expressions and in the media, cyberspace, and trade. Let all the members of the United Nations family, all the Member States, and partners and friends of UNESCO join together to show that ‘Languages Matter!’”

We invite you to familiarize yourself with this important message from the UNESCO director general in full.