By Nahiyan Pasha
Whether you read it, write it, speak it, or even think it, languages play a huge role in our lives. We use a language every day, whether it is for a friendly ‘good morning’ or if we are writing an essay in school- languages are everywhere. And it is what us, as humans use to communicate with each other, and also with ourselves, for example when we think in our head, we always have a voice, and that voice speaks a language. There are approximately 7000 languages spoken in the world today. This is a huge amount, and it makes me very surprised that we have so many ways to communicate with one another. I believe that as young individuals of the world, we should embrace all forms of language that we have been able to come across.
Every year, on the 21st February, International Mother Language day is celebrated. This day sets out to underline the importance of our right to read, write and speak our mother tongue. Back in 1952, on the 21st February, a group of students from Dhaka University in Bangladesh, were brutally shot dead by police, for protesting for the recognition of Bengali as a state language for, at the time, East Pakistan. The courage shown by these young, ambitious students that day lead to UNESCO recognising the date as the International Mother Language day, in November 1999. I feel that days like this should allow us to feel proud about the language we speak and also to feel proud that we come from nations where we are free to speak many different languages, and also have many opportunities to learn new ones.
Although there is a lot to be proud about, not everything is bright lights when it comes to languages. Unfortunately, there are a myriad of languages across the world which are, according to UNESCO’s Language Classification System, ‘endangered’. This means many languages have reached a stage where their lack of speakers, or the age of their speakers means that they are very close to becoming extinct. Back in 2011, The Guardian published an article showing all the ‘endangered’ languages and their approximate number of speakers. A staggering 64 languages from that list only had 1-3 speakers left. Only 1-3 speakers. Such statistics are upsetting for me, as I feel that languages play a huge role in society, even if they are spoken in the most remote regions.
So, I guess that the question remains, what can we do to help as young people?
I think that we should try to take pride in the fact that we can speak at least one language and aim to learn others. I also feel that we should embrace our mother tongue alongside our own first languages and make a conscious effort to learn it. I for example am fluent in English, but not so in my parent’s language, Bengali. However, both my parents and I, make a huge effort to ensure that I continue to learn Bengali, and now I will be doing it at GCSE level.
So, regardless of our birthplace, I feel that as young people of the world, we should aim to try and embrace as many languages as we can, and take pride in the fact that we can all read, write and speak.