National Mother Language Day

How many languages do you speak? Do you have one language that you are a native speaker of, but you have parents or grandparents who speak another? Are you bilingual? Trilingual? Trying to learn a new language? 

There are an estimated 7106 living languages spoken around the world, including languages and dialects spoken in remote regions of the world. Language is an important part of our world. It is how we communicate with others in our own neighborhood, at school or work, and even on the Internet. Being able to understand language is critical to our development from a young age, and it is especially important globally for communities to have equal access to education. 

UNESCO established International Mother Language Day in 1999 in recognition of the Bengali Language Movement, which sought to recognize Bengali as an official language in Bangladesh. Like many small, cultural and linguistic communities around the world, the Bengali people faced fierce opposition to receive recognition of their language and community. 

The United Nations designated February 21 as International Mother Language Day with overall efforts dedicated to preserving the world’s languages. This year’s theme is “multilingual education – a necessity to transform education.” 40% of the global population does not have access to education in their native language. Multilingual education not only supports early childhood education, but it helps to create engaged citizens in the public life of their community and country. 

In the 2020-2021 school year, more than 13,000 students enrolled in Westchester County schools were English Language Learners (ELLs) – students whose first native language is not English and therefore needs specialized instruction in their academic coursework. For these students, learning English may feel like a necessity to succeed, but offering bilingual education helps to support their academic achievements and further their success. 

Speaking another language is a valuable skill that can allow you to cross barriers in work, education and in life. In New York State, Spanish, Chinese and Russian are three of the most spoken languages aside from English, together making up about 19% of the population. 

Maybe you want to learn a language so you can carry on a conversation with more people in your community, or maybe you want to reconnect with your heritage and learn a language from your own cultural background. There are plenty of resources available through the Yonkers Public Library that can help you on your language learning journey.

With Gale Courses, you can access more than 300 instructor-led online courses in a variety of topics including languages like Spanish, American Sign Language, Italian, Japanese, French, and ESL courses.

Mango Languages has courses designed to teach you conversational skills in a variety of languages, like Arabic and Cherokee, as well as offering ESL courses.

You can also check out some of these books from your local branch for learning a new language:

Alison Robles is a part-time page at the Crestwood Library. She is an avid reader with a passion for YA lit, history and science fiction. A Yonkers native, she graduated from Iona University in 2020 with a dual-degree in Marketing and Public Relations.