Edmonton, Canada- Last February 21, 2015, the International and Heritage Languages Association (IHLA) held its 12th International Mother Language Day to celebrate languages and cultures. During the festivities, a dancer at the Italian Cultural Centre in Edmonton performed with the Ballet Mexico. Different groups from several language schools were seen partaking in the celebration and festivities as well. Live music and dances were part of the events seen at Edmonton’s celebration.
Long Live the Languages
The Mayor of Edmonton, Don Iveson and City Councilor Amarjeet Sohi gave a message to everyone who attended the big bash. “Long Live Language” was the collective message both leaders had for all the attendees. Being proponents of the association’s efforts in saving endangered languages, these two leaders were remembered to be present at the annual Mother Language Day during its 12th year.
According to Iveson, more than a third of all Edmontonians are able to converse at home in another language that is separate from either English or French. This is due to their belief that one would need to embrace languages and keep them alive in order to promote their rich culture and show their diversity.
Risk of Languages Becoming Extinct
At present, there are almost 7,000 languages spoken all over the world. In fact, just in the community of Mill Woods, there are already 120 languages being spoken. However data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) showed that half of all the languages around the world are at a risk of becoming extinct after a few more generations. The data also showed that citizens of Africa speak a myriad of languages as there are more than 3,000 languages being spoken in Africa. However this number has dwindled dramatically when compared to the 10,000 languages being spoken in Africa during the 19th century. Looking at this trend, language specialists are anticipating a possible decline in languages as the years progress.
Preservation of Languages
Olenka Bilash, a professor at the University of Alberta who specializes in second languages, believes that people lose their cultural roots or identity once they lose grip of their language. This is why the president of IHLA, Olga Prokhorova, has said that it is essential to preserve languages in order to pass this piece of history and culture to the next generation. That way they will be able to uphold the customs and traditions of Canada.
A Celebration of Cultural Diversity
The City of Edmonton has already been offering services in about 150 languages. However Bilash has seen data that show most people being uncomfortable to converse in their mother tongue, at least in public areas. But with the official proclamation of the International Mother Language Day in the city of Edmonton, Bilash is hopeful that people will be more receptive to embrace the cultural diversity brought about by different languages. His sentiments are best echoed in the similar thoughts of Marueen Kubinec, the Minister of Culture and Tourism in Alberta, who said that all our words would define us. Kubinec said that we are defined as a people by our vocabulary, expressions and even slang. Being an example of our creativity as a people and as humans, words are the most basic cultural identifiers.