International Mother Language Day. Courtesy of UNESCO, 2022.
Today is International Mother Language Day, a day set aside by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) to raise awareness about the loss of Indigenous languages across the world, and to promote multilingualism. Many Indigenous languages across the globe are under the increasing threat of extinction (UNESCO, 2022). Thus, keeping these languages alive and thriving is incredibly important, as they help communities continue to connect with culture, and form an important part of inclusive education.
This year's theme, “Using technology for multilingual learning: Challenges and opportunities,” will encourage discussions about how technology can advance multilingual education, and improve the quality of teaching and learning for all. UNESCO’s Director-General Audrey Azoulay (2022) shared a message about this year’s theme on the UNESCO website:
"Technology can provide new tools for protecting linguistic diversity. Such tools, for example, facilitate their spread and analysis, allow us to record and preserve languages which sometimes exist only in oral form. Put simply, they make local dialects a shared heritage."
Australian Indigenous languages map. Image credit: David Foster. Courtesy of Australian Geographic, 2022.
Here, in Australia, there were once 250 distinct language groups. However, today, only 120 of these languages are still spoken. Preserving these remaining languages is a vital part of keeping Indigenous culture alive. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are not just a form of communication, they connect to every part of life. Languages express knowledge about: law, geography, history, family and human relationships, philosophy, spirituality, anatomy, childcare, health, caring for Country, astronomy, biology and food (Johnston, 2020).
ALNF’s Living First Languages Platform. Courtesy of ALNF, 2022.
Around Australia, many groups are working hard to revive and share Indigenous languages through programs and technology. The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation’s Living First Language Platform is one such initiative. The platform is delivered in the form of an app that provides interactive digital literacy for First Language speakers, and the many entities that support them. The 50 Words Project is another language platform that is helping share Indigenous languages. The website provides all Australians with a way to connect with Indigenous cultures through sharing 50 everyday words in 60 languages. We encourage everyone to take a look, and learn some words of the language from the area that you live in.
We hope that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages will continue to be revitalised and kept alive, so that the next generations have the opportunity to learn their mother tongue. So, today let's celebrate the rich diversity of Indigenous languages through learning and sharing!
If you would like to learn more about Indigenous languages, check out our previous posts: The Platform that Allows you to Hear 50 Everyday Words Spoken in Indigenous Languages, Reviving First Nations Languages and The Words of the Mibiny Peoples immortalised in New Dictionary.