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Message by Mr Ko´chiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of International Mother Language Day

31.01.2007

"The mother language is dear to each one of us. It is in the mother tongue that we utter our first words and express individual thoughts best. It is the foundation upon which all human beings develop their personality from the moment they draw their first breath, and which supports them throughout their lives. It is the school for respect for oneself, one’s history and one’s culture but, above all, for others and their differences.

For difference inheres in every language as a "second nature”.

Specialists know well that languages, far from constituting immutable and closed systems, are always the outcome of much intermingling, interactions and influences over time. No language lacks a history. However cultured and correct our manner of speaking may be, it consists of many borrowed forms, in which identity and alterity intermingle. Etymology rightly refers to this multifaceted history, in which identity is the fruit of diversity and complementarity and which prepares a future marked by other contacts, other points of convergence.

The dialectic bond between identity and diversity is not merely a legacy from the past. In a world in which the global and the local are entwined and must interact harmoniously, the concepts of “mother tongue” and “multilingualism” are becoming structurally complementary. Communication within the family or community sphere is thus coupled with the exercise of the speech at school and at work and in the market, the newspapers, policies, religion, the courts, administration and leisure activities. It is a matter of experiencing all of these aspects of social life in a linguistically appropriate manner. [...]

Read the complete text here.

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