What Is International Mother Language Day?
The next few years of global development hinge on how rapidly and effectively we can move towards a more sustainable, equitable way of living. The role of employers and recruiters is to build inclusivity into the very fabric of the way we build careers, and how we support communities.
International Mother Language Day is one of the most important days for HR teams, as it puts focus on the power of language as a central component of inclusive cultures of work. Its founding statement says it is “to promote unity in diversity and international understanding, through multilingualism and multiculturalism”. Language, and the protection of language, is important to enterprise-wide commitments to diversity.
International Mother Language Day 2022
This year, the UN is focusing on a number of issues such as the power of technology and using technology for multilingual learning, thus opening a conversation around how digital solutions can help promote and expand inclusivity through language.
“Technology has the potential to address some of the greatest challenges in education today. It can accelerate efforts towards ensuring equitable and inclusive lifelong learning opportunities for all if it is guided by the core principles of inclusion and equity. Multilingual education based on mother tongue is a key component of inclusion in education”.
The UN is also focusing on the heritage and protection of linguistic diversity, and they rightly puts language at the centre of community memory, identity and culture. With the rise of globalisation and the potential for digital erosion of “difference”, what would happen if language is lost.
“When languages fade, so does the world’s rich tapestry of cultural diversity. Opportunities, traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking and expression — valuable resources for ensuring a better future — are also lost”.
The power of language in finance
Consider the melting pots of financial wisdom in our business districts and centres of decision-making across the world.
Now, consider the enormous variety of languages contained within those spaces;
- There are over 250 languages spoken in London.
- In Germany, outside of German, the most widely spoken languages are English, Russian, French and Turkish.
- Even though English is the international language of business, Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world. As the financial centre of gravity moves East, the rich linguistic storytelling and cultural power of Mandarin (and by extension Cantonese and other regional dialects) will only rise.
Language is a vector for diverse creative thinking, which is essential if enterprises are committed to better representation and want to advance their business into a more equitable future.
The University of Manchester did a study on language and community cohesion highlighting how language matters, how it is central to learning and cultural stability, and business investment and success, noting:
- In the city of Manchester…40% of schoolchildren speak at least one, sometimes two other languages…the region’s urban landscape features commercial, cultural, and private signage in more than 50 different languages.
- Young people come together around activities that help them develop their curiosity towards other languages and their appreciation of other people’s language heritage – for example at the bi-annual Levenshulme Language Day.
- Several dozen community-run weekend supplementary schools operate in Greater Manchester, teaching children heritage languages including Chinese, Arabic, Polish, Greek, Tamil and many others. They offer a valuable service to around eight thousand pupils in the Greater Manchester area and their families.
The business and community outcomes are immediate and incredibly positive
- Greater Manchester’s investment agency MIDAS believes that language skills in the local labour pool are among the top five factors that attract foreign investors and help expand the region’s international trade outreach.
- Language skills, and sensitivity towards the use of language, also give direct access to cultural narratives and discourses. They enable insights that can help counteract mutual suspicion, fear, and resentment among population groups and tackle extremism of all kinds.
- Central Manchester University Hospitals operate an exemplary and world-leading model of language provisions, responding annually to up to fifty thousand requests for interpreting in over one hundred different languages.
- Manchester City Council is one of the few local authorities that maintains a successful in-house translation and interpreting service.
Language is a powerful tool in our community toolbox. So let’s make sure we are doing everything we can to promote and protect mother languages in our workplace!
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