Identify & Get Informed
There are about 6000 to 7000 languages spoken in the world and in more ways than one these languages become the expression of the diverse cultural identities of the globes inhabitants, for with language we are able to transmit our collective knowledge to future generations. It is our capacity to have language that many people would agree distinguishes us from other living beings on earth. Although people are capable of learning many different languages over a single lifetime, the first language we learn from birth will have the greatest affect on us mentally, socially, and even psychologically, and this first language is affectionately termed, “mother tongue language.”
Language, as you might have guessed, is intimately connected to a person’s cultural identity. Although having a distinct language is not a requirement for having a distinct culture, simply using a language associated to a specific culture or community can act as a meaningful expression of that culture.
So why does language matter so much?
Languages reflect the diversity that is humanity from the ways in which we connect with one another to how we use language to express how we think about the world around us.
To learn more about the Global Issues’ Guide-to-Action model used for this issue click here
Lead & Get Other Involved
French Senegalese novelist, Boubacar Boris Diop author of Doomi Golo
, decided to use writing not just as a tool to communicate his mother tongue language “Wolof,” but also as a political tool that he could use to raise awareness about local and international injustices such as the Rwandan genocide among members of his language community. However the dilemma he initially faced was that the majority of people who understood ‘Wolof’ orally, could not read or purchase books to learn how. So in response, Diop decided to meet the needs of his language community by offering ‘Wolof’ workshops to interested children and youth in order to ensure a next generation of Wolof speakers.
Other people, such as French Chinese author, François Cheng, who learned his second language (French) at the age of 20, engaged multilingualism through cross-cultural dialogues usually facilitated through one or two common languages among a large diversity of language groups. Throughout history, dialogues occurred between speakers of many different languages for the purpose of trade. Whereas today, globalization has been primarily responsible for rapidly increasing the exchange of information between existing world languages, and globalization has even been linked to the creation of hybrid languages (i.e. elements (words) of two different languages that are combined to make a new language sub-group) such as Spanglish, which is a combination of Spanish and English.
No matter what your language group, languages and multilingualism affects all cultural groups thus making the preservation of ethnolinguistic minority language groups a matter to be addressed by all people.
Now that your inspired to lead others on this global issue check out these web links to learn more about how you can get involved with this issue.
Languages and Multilingualism: A Pillar of Cultural Diversity
International Mother Language Day
Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity
Plan & Get Moving
So how are you going to share this global issue with others?
On the TakingITGlobal (TIG) website you can chose to sign a petition calling for the preservation and collaboration of global languages or you can use TIG action tools to create your own petition or commitment. Or why not start a TIG group or a project dedicated to sharing your mother tongue language with the youth in your community and around the world. If your not sure how to get started, check out TIG’s Action Guides to learn how to make the action you want to take on this global issue a reality. While your offline, you can plan a celebration, open forum, or workshop with your family and friends to celebrate and share your mother tongue language or other mother tongue languages in your community.
This is just the beginning, there is a world of opportunities for you to plan and get moving on. So what are you waiting for and get started today!
Have a Lasting Impact
Remember, learning about a new global issue is only the first step to developing the skills you need to have a lasting impact. So let the rest of TIG know what kind of change you want to see with the issue of languages by joining us in one of our online discussions described below.
How do we as global citizens address conflicts that arise when ethnolinguistic minority groups (i.e. language communities that represent small or marginalized populations around the world) are forced to give up their mother tongue language in exchange for a dominant language group?
Can a multilingual education prevent the erosion of cultural minority language groups such as those spoken by Indigenous peoples?
Does international days such as “International Mother Language Day” help preserve or bring awareness to the need to preserve mother tongue (or first) languages?
UNESCO, the Courier (January 2008). Language Matters. Web address: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001583/158378E.pdf
Have something more to add to what we’ve discussed above, then check out this global issue’s wiki page to have your say!