In 1999, 21 February was declared Mother Language Day by UNESCO. This day is celebrated around the world to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The language rich and diverse communities at the various Dutch International Schools all put their own spin on the celebrations.
By Ingrid Schmoutziguer (International School Utrecht), Manon Blaxland, (Optimist International School), Ankie Jones (International School Hilversum) and Louis Haywood (International School of The Hague)
International Mother Language Day provides a unique opportunity to celebrate the diversity of languages and dialects spoken by all students, staff and families, and to promote language learning and multicultural understanding. By recognising and celebrating the heritage of all community members, Dutch International Schools strive to create a more inclusive and welcoming learning environment for all.
Language Parade at Optimist International School
This year, at Optimist International School, the multilingual learning team decided to organise a language parade. And you might wonder what that entailed. At 1.45pm the children all went outside into the school playground where they met in different language groups – we had 20 language groups, which is just amazing! They then paraded all together through the school to the allocated rooms where different activities were taking place.
We saw reading groups happening in Telegu, Hindi, Malayalam, English, Romanian, Bengali and Portugese, songs in Tamil and Kannada, chants in Marathi, laughter yoga and dance in Hindi, games in Russian, Turkish, Spanish, Arabic, Ukranian and German, craft sessions in Urdu and Polish and calligraphy lessons in Japanese.
It was amazing to hear and see the many different languages from across the corridors. There was lots of laughter and excitement and you could see the proud faces of the children when talking their mother language and learning and hearing the languages of their peers. Language learning is so important to us and one of the reasons we are a certified Language Friendly School.
Home Languages Week at International School Utrecht
Every year, we celebrate Home Languages Week. Both inside the classroom, as well as during assemblies and special sessions in our library, we celebrate all home languages with a host of activities as well as using multiple languages during music, drama, visual arts and music classes. During the week, the library is the hearth of the celebrations. All week, staff members, students and parents come in to read a story in their home language to various audiences.
Greeting of the Week
A fun way of bringing home languages in to school on a daily basis, is our greeting of the week, in which we wish each other good morning in a different language every week. In the morning when we get into school, music will be playing in the language of the week too. This week, when celebrating Home Language Week, our language of the week, naturally is Bangla. ‘Nomoshkaar’!
Treasure Hunt and cultural fair at International School Hilversum
At International School Hilversum, International Mother Language day celebrations spread across the school. In primary, students started the day with parents coming in to read stories in their home language. The students in groups, accompanied by a grade 10 buddy, then went into secondary school to take part in a Treasure Hunt.
Secondary students also took part in this Treasure Hunt, where they had to find 21 languages that were hidden around the building. Students also had to learn three words/phrases per language. We finished the day with a cultural fair in primary, which was hosted by parents.
Student-led activity at International School of The Hague
The Active Connect Club at the International School of The Hague, led by students in Years 7 to 9, made a playlist of their favourite songs in their home language, and invited students and staff to write down a favourite word or phrase in their own Mother Tongue. Lots of our community members participated in this fun activity.
Sad story behind Mother Languages Day
When India and Pakistan became independent states in 1947, this meant the partition of the Bengal region. West Bengal became part of India, while East Bengal (today’s Bangladesh) became part of Pakistan. Although a majority of the people in Pakistan spoke Bangla, the government of Pakistan declared Urdu the official language. This led to protests which were stemmed by banning public rallies.
Eventually on 21 February 1952 a group of students broke curfew to fight for their mother tongue. students Abdus Salam, Abul Barkat, Rafiq Uddin Ahmed, Abdul Jabbar and Shafiur Rahman were killed and hundreds of students were injured demanding their language, Bangla, to become an official state language. The government of Pakistan finally recognised Bangla as an official language in 1956. Upon an official proposal from the government of Bangladesh, Unesco unanimously declared 21 February as International Mother Language Day and the first celebrations took place in 2000.