Two kids are standing on railroad tracks after the world has been (predictably, I mean, we’ve all seen the movies recently) taken over either by zombies, aliens, or robots — or some combination of all three. Those two kids are our last hope for the future of humanity! There they are, standing on those tracks hiding from their captors who are scanning the earth anxiously because they know that there are humans still alive, when one kid asks the other kid a question. “So, how do we save this planet? We’re in some pretty deep water.” The other kid stares at him blankly. Probably just a mild case of shock. Cut the kid some slack, he just watched robots, aliens, and zombies take over the world. The kid who asked the question realizes this, so he backs off for a few minutes and then repeats the question. “So, how do we save this planet?” No answer. “Hello?” After a few more seconds, the kid finally responds: “Je ne parle pas l’anglais.”
Oh, come on.
This February 21st, celebrate International Mother Language Day, a holiday that was started in 1999 by UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) to bring awareness to the fact that other languages and cultures exist in the world, and that we, as humans, have a great responsibility to learn about those languages and cultures. Hopefully the earth never finds itself in this situation above, but if it did, wouldn’t it be nice if both those kids had more actively celebrated International Mother Language Day?
Here’s some tips for celebrating:
-Teach someone another language. If you are bilingual (or multilingual — no limitations here), try to teach someone else how to speak in a different language. Kids, fellow employees, students, spouses, parents, acquaintances, random people at the park — just talk to someone and increase the cultural awareness of the world one person at a time.
-Preserve your unique heritage by showing it to others. Not from the same neck of the woods as your neighbors? Perfect! This February 21st (and every other day, really — cultural diversity never hurt anyone), have a party at your house and make some traditional food from your homeland, teach others how to do a dance only found in your country, or show some friends a foreign flick.
-Learn another language. Pick a language that sounds appealing to you, get a book, an iPhone app, or Rosetta Stone, and start learning little by little.
Whatever you decide to do, find a way to make our world a more understanding and tolerable place by learning of the people and culture that surrounds you.
“Multilingualism is a source of strength and opportunity for humanity. It embodies our cultural diversity and encourages the exchange of views, the renewal of ideas and the broadening of our capacity to imagine.” – Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General.