Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

Message by UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura for International Mother Language Day ─ 21 February 2007

International Mother Language Day will be held on February 21, 2007. This year’s focus is on the linkages between mother tongue and multilingualism . In a speech given for the occasion, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, declared that “more than 50% of the 6,000 languages spoken in the world, vehicles of collective memory and intangible heritage, are likely to die out and 96% of these languages are spoken by only 4% of the world’s population. Less than a quarter of all languages in the world are used in education and in cyberspace and most of them are used only occasionally. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given pride of place in the education system and in the public domain and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.” In his message, Mr. Matsuura called for “national and regional language strategies to be promoted in such a way as to build a harmonious environment for all the languages of the world.”