Woman sitting down on the floor pointing at a poster with letters is surrounded by young children.
Toddlers in Bangladesh are introduced to the alphabet.
Photo:© UNICEF/BANA2014-00573/Mawa

Using technology for multilingual learning: Challenges and opportunities

International Mother Language Day recognizes that languages and multilingualism can advance inclusion, and the Sustainable Development Goals’ focus on leaving no one behind. UNESCO believes education, based on the first language or mother tongue, must begin from the early years as early childhood care and education is the foundation of learning.

The theme of the 2022 International Mother Language Day, “Using technology for multilingual learning: Challenges and opportunities,” raises the potential role of technology to advance multilingual education and support the development of quality teaching and learning for all. 

Technology has the potential to address some of the greatest challenges in education today. It can accelerate efforts towards ensuring equitable and inclusive lifelong learning opportunities for all if it is guided by the core principles of inclusion and equity. Multilingual education based on mother tongue is a key component of inclusion in education.

During COVID-19 school closures, many countries around the world employed technology-based solutions to maintain continuity of learning. But many learners lacked the necessary equipment, internet access, accessible materials, adapted content, and human support that would have allowed them to follow distance learning. Moreover, distance teaching and learning tools, programmes and content are not always able to reflect language diversity.

children looking at tablet

Main Event

Friday, 21 February 2022
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (CET-Paris time) Watch live

  • The webinar will explore the following two main themes:

  • Enhancing the role of teachers in the promotion of quality multilingual teaching and learning;
  • Reflecting on technologies and its potential to support multilingual teaching and learning.

Events around the world

UN Headquarters in New York

21 Feb 2022, 1:15 - 3:00 p.m. 

Discussion with senior officials from the Permanent Missions of Bangladesh, Bulgaria, El Salvador, Nigeria and Portugal to the United Nations, as well as the UN Secretariat and UNESCO, followed by multilingual cultural performances. Organized by the Permanent Missions of Bangladesh, Bulgaria, El Salvador, Nigeria, Portugal to the United Nations in collaboration with the UN Secretariat and UNESCO. Watch on UN WebTV

Brussels, Belgium

21 Feb 2022, 2 - 3 p.m. 

Webinar on the use of the Dutch language and other mother languages within the education systems in the Netherlands, Belgium (Flanders and Brussels) and Suriname, presented by UNRIC in partnership with Taalunie, the Netherlands, Flanders and Suriname commissions for UNESCO, the National Language Council of Suriname, the UNIC for the Caribbean area, and the online platform Drongo. More information in Dutch.

Geneva, Switzerland

21 Feb 2022, 11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. 

"Cherish your mother language" - Virtual discussion featuring remarks by the Chair of Linguistics and Endangered Languages of the University of Adelaide (Australia), and by the Director of the Division of Conference Management and Chair of the Multilingualism Action Team at UN Geneva, followed by a live Q&A period. Presented by the UNOG Library and the Division of Conference Management. Open for participation via MS Teams.

Safeguarding Linguistic Diversity

Languages, with their complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, education and development, are of strategic importance for people and planet. Yet, due to globalization processes, they are increasingly under threat, or disappearing altogether. When languages fade, so does the world's rich tapestry of cultural diversity. Opportunities, traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking and expression — valuable resources for ensuring a better future — are also lost.

Every two weeks a language disappears taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage. At least 43% of the estimated 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given a place in education systems and the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.

Multilingual and multicultural societies exist through their languages which transmit and preserve traditional knowledge and cultures in a sustainable way.

International Mother Language Day is observed every year to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

Background

International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 1999. The UN General Assembly welcomed the proclamation of the day in its resolution of 2002.

On 16 May 2007 the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/61/266 called upon Member States "to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world". By the same resolution, the General Assembly proclaimed 2008 as the International Year of Languages, to promote unity in diversity and international understanding, through multilingualism and multiculturalism and named the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to serve as the lead agency for the Year.

Today there is growing awareness that languages play a vital role in development, in ensuring cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue, but also in strengthening co-operation and attaining quality education for all, in building inclusive knowledge societies and preserving cultural heritage, and in mobilizing political will for applying the benefits of science and technology to sustainable development.

Portrait of an indigenous girl from the Andes.

The International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032) aims to ensure indigenous peoples’ right to preserve, revitalize and promote their languages. It offers an opportunity to collaborate in the areas of policy development and stimulate a global dialogue and to take necessary measures for the usage, preservation, revitalization and promotion of indigenous languages around the world.

illustration of people with clock, calendar, to-do list and decorations

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.