Kathmandu, February 22, 2018: In order to mark ‘International Mother Language Day 2018’on February 21, 2018, cultural experts, linguists and indigenous people attended and organized various programs throughout the country.
At a poem recitation program held to mark International Mother Language Day, Shrawan Mukarung, Chief of language department at National Academy, said that each individual and community should have an attachment towards their native languages and the government should create an environment to promote mother tongues. As many as 36 poets recited poems in their mother tongue at the program.
Ganga Prasad Uprety, Chancellor of Nepal Academy stressed that mother tongue identifies people and preserving it is the duty of all individuals, society, and the government. Lava Deo Awasthi, Language Commission Chairperson stated, “We are committed to protecting every single language spoken in the country.”
Ganesh Bhattarai, spokesperson for the Language Commission mentioned that severely endangered languages like Dura and Kusunda had only two to three speakers. None of the 19 endangered languages are spoken in a community and they do not have any written texts. Bhattarai also claimed that a language called ‘Waling’ is considered dead with the death of a single recorded speaker.
Nobal Kishor Rai and Chunamani Bandhu, language scholars, along with the 10 native speakers representing ‘endangered language group’, spoke at another program highlighting the need of protecting and promoting all the languages spoken in the country.
International Mother Language Day is celebrated annually, every February, after it was formally recognized by UN General Assembly in a resolution establishing 2008 as the International Year of Languages since 2008. It is also marked as a day to commemorate the people of Bangladesh who lost their lives fighting for the right to use their mother language on February 21, 1952. UNESCO reiterates its commitment to linguistic diversity and invites its Member States to celebrate the Mother Language Day in as many languages as possible as a reminder that linguistic diversity and multilingualism are essential for sustainable development.
According to the census 2011, 123 languages are spoken as mother tongues in Nepal among which 53 languages are categorized as ‘safe’, 51 as ‘endangered’ and 19 as ‘severely endangered’. Around 44.6 percent of Nepali people speak Nepali as their mother tongue and 11.56 percent of Nepali speak Maithali making these the most popularly spoken language of Nepal. Indo-Aryan, Sino-Tibetian, Agneya, and Dravidian are the categories of Nepali language. Majority of Nepali languages comes under the Indo-Aryan and Sino-Tibetian group. A single language called Santhal spoken in Jhapa area comes under Agneya group and another single language called Urau comes under Dravidian group.