International Mother Language Day 2015 Celebrations

UNESCO declared 21 February as International Mother Language Day (IMLD) and since 2000, it has been observed throughout the world.  21 February is the anniversary of a most memorable day in Bangladesh’s history; it is a national day to commemorate protests and sacrifices to protect Bangla (Bengali) as a national language during the Bengali Language Movement of 1952. Bangladesh used to be Eastern Pakistan. When the Pakistan government declared Urdu as the sole national language in 1948, disregarding Bangla which was the language of the majority, protests were undertaken throughout the Bengali-speaking population.  On 21 February 1952, students at the University of Dhaka (which was like the UP of Eastern Pakistan) organized a protest which resulted with the police opening fire and the consequent deaths of four students. Later, after a series of strife and tension, in 1971, that part of Pakistan obtained its independence and became what we now know as Bangladesh.  In early 1999, two Bangladeshi members of an organization called “Mother Language Lovers of the World” in Canada proposed the UNESCO to declare 21st February as an International Mother Language Day.  This enabled UNESCO to adopt the historic resolution in the long run.

In the Resolution 12 of UNESCO's 30th General Conference 1999, it states…recognizing the need to improve understanding and communication among peoples….Also recognizing the great importance of safeguarding the linguistic and cultural heritage of humanity and extending the influence of each of the cultures and languages of which that heritage is composed...Considering the current threat to linguistic diversity posed by the globalization of communication and the tendency to use a single language, at the risk of marginalizing the other major languages of the world, or even of causing the lesser-used languages, including regional languages, to disappear…

The Resolution recommends that Member States:
(a)  create the conditions for a social, intellectual and media environment of an international character which is conducive to linguistic pluralism;

(b)  promote, through multilingual education, democratic access to knowledge for all citizens, whatever their mother tongue, and build linguistic pluralism

DepEd Memo on IMLD celebrationhttp://www.deped.gov.ph/.../files/memo/2011/DM_s2011_019.pdf

We are holding a modest celebration of IMLD at the College of Education, UP, Diliman.

  • Australia - The Research Centre for Languages and Cultures and the University of South Australia and the South Australian Government’s Multicultural Education Committee are jointly hosting an event in observance of  IMLD 2015. The public lecture will be about the nature of the problems in contemporary language politics and in attempting to formulate new directions for a politics of language in a notion of Linguistic Citizenship that addresses issues of social, economic and political injustice for marginalized populations of minority or non-dominant language speakers. Please find all information, including how to register in the attached flyer.
  • Pakistan – Institute for Education and Development is planning to have a seminar in Peshawar Pakistan on Feb 21 regarding the languages spoken in this part of Pakistan.
  • U.S.A –Language and Peacebuilding symposium in Washington, DC. How do issues of language, language complexity, and communication play out in peace-building efforts and ongoing security? How can language issues be identified and addressed effectively in policy planning and execution? Drawing on relevant scholarship and experience, these questions will be addressed through a combination of keynote address and a lively panel discussion. For further information and registration please check: http://www.allianceforpeacebuilding.org/event/2015/02/language-policy-and-peacebuilding/ 
  • Kenya - The MLE Network of Kenya is holding an event at the University of Nairobi which will include a panel discussion with Kenyan academics and language experts.
  • Congo - SIL and Shalom University of Bunia will be holding two half-day conferences on February 20th and 21st. Activities will include presentations from eleven researchers involved with the region’s languages as well as speeches from academics and the public officials about the value of the mother tongue. The event will be featured on local radio stations. 
  • Canada – Punjabi Language Teachers Association of Canada will organize an event to share information about the continuous efforts to have Punjabi language education British Columbia’s public schools, colleges and universities. Please see attached file for further information.
  • Nepal - Nepal Academy and UNESCO Office in Kathmandu will organize 2 days (20-21 February) event to celebrate upcoming IMLD. The celebration will be joined by Ministry of Education, Tribhuvan University and civil society organizations in Nepal. The event will include presentations on language situation in Nepal, MTB MLE policy and practices, role of UNESCO in promoting MLE, creative writings in mother tongues and other MLE- related initiatives
  • Turkey – There will be an “International Conference on Multilingual Education and Development, Focus on Turkey” on 19 February 2015 in Antalya, Turkey. Please check the conference website: http://amuseturk2015.org/ for more information.
  • New Zealand – Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Aotearoa New Zealand (TESOLANZ) is running IMLD Campaign “Say Hi on Mother Tongue Day!” Greet your whānau, friends, colleagues and neighbours in their mother tongue to celebrate International Mother Language Day. Phone, send an email, text, or call over the back fence to say ‘Hi’ in their mother tongue. Please see attached poster for your information.
  • Uganda -  As part of its local language education promotion in remote communities, Ugandan NGO Literacy and Adult Basic Education (LABE) will mark International Mother Language Day in each of the 6 post-conflict districts in Northern Uganda where it works.  Activities will include dissemination of a newly developed Kakwa language orthography in Koboko District, community-level reading and storytelling competitions in the other districts and producing a supplement in the Luo language newspaper highlighting this year’s Theme.

IMLD 2015 Infographic

Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of International Mother Language Day, 21 February 2015

Inclusive Education through and with Language -- Language Matters

2015 marks the 15th anniversary of International Mother Language Day – this is also a turning point year for the international community, as the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, when countries will define a new global sustainable development agenda.

The focus for the post-2015 agenda must fall on the priority of advancing quality education for all -- widening access, ensuring equality and inclusiveness, and promoting education for global citizenship and sustainable development. Education in the mother language is an essential part of achieving these goals -- to facilitate learning and to bolster skills in reading, writing and mathematics. Taking this forward requires a sharper focus on teaching training, revisions of academic programmes and the creation of suitable learning environments.

UNESCO takes forward these goals across the world. In Latin America, with the United Nations Children's Fund, UNESCO is promoting inclusive education through bilingual intercultural approaches, in order to include both native and non-native cultures. For the same reasons, the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in Asia and the Pacific, based in Bangkok, Thailand, is working to deepen understandings of multilingual education based on the mother tongue, across the region and further afield. Mother tongue education is force for quality learning – it is also essential to bolster multilingualism and respect for linguistic and cultural diversity in societies that are transforming quickly.

Since 2000, there has been tremendous progress to reach the goals of Education for All. Today, we must look ahead – to complete unfinished business and to tackle new challenges. International Mother Language Day is a moment for all of us to raise the flag for the importance of mother tongue to all educational efforts, to enhance the quality of learning and to reach the unreached. Every girl and boy, every woman and man must have the tools to participate fully in the lives of their societies – this is a basic human right and it is a force for the sustainability of all development.



Honoring Madam Norma Duguiang, lead MTBMLE pioneer and advocate from Lubuagan

Norma Duguiang in her classroom

We learned the sad news that Madam Norma Odiem Duguiang joined her Maker last Dec 24, 2014 due to heart attack.. She's the hardy teacher of Lubuagan Central Elementary School who along with other fellow teachers advocated for MTBMLE long before it became a policy. She spoke in the Congress during a deliberation on a language and education policy. She was also one of the resource persons who equipped the first sets of national MTBMLE teacher trainers of the Department of Education. 

In 2009-2010, I would bring my graduate class to her hometown to observe the MLE classes in Lubuagan Central Elementary School and Mabilong Elementary School. 

Madam Norma would open her home to us. It's actually the ancestral house of the Odiems, a traditional three level wooden structure with so many spacious rooms.  She would tell us stories behind the Kalinga artifacts that are displayed all over their place. She would point to the large pots saying that their women would  use them to draw water from the river. The beautiful multicolored beads that adorned their necks were made of expensive ceramic material. They would make replicas out of recycled plastic material.

Our favorite topic, of course, was the issue of language. She would express her sadness about how their young are forgetting some Lilubuagen words.  “I am sad that the young people today do not know original Lilubuagen words like how we call the anahaw leaf which is alaaw. They have also forgotten the names of some indigenous kitchen utensils since they have come to prefer those plastic wares.”   

Norma's house
My EDFD 221 students at Madam Norma's house
Madam Norma would remember the challenge of learning in an unfamiliar language. She  would refer to the time in the 1960s when the vernacular was supposed to be the medium of instruction. Since their teachers were Ilocano, they were forced to learn to read and write in their teachers’ language. That time nobody from Lubuagan was educated enough to be a school teacher. At least Ilocano was then the trade language and so they could get by. 

Lubuagan beads
MTBMLE Class at Lubuagan Central Elem Scl
MTBMLE board work in 2009
The most difficult moment was when the bilingual policy was imposed in 1974. Madam Norma was in the middle of her social studies class when her supervisor came. She was asked to immediately switch from English to Tagalog. A stack of paper was placed on her lap detailing the new policy requirement to use Tagalog in teaching Social Studies. At that time Tagalog was totally alien in most places in the Philippines. Tagalog was not yet widely used in radio or TV. Besides, there was no electricity yet in Lubuagan.  Teaching became burdensome and unnatural because she had to consult a Tagalog-English dictionary so often. 

And so the prospect of using Lilubuagen in school was something that was warmly welcomed. Using the local language has improved the performance of the school. Their ranking moved from the bottom to the top in their in the whole division of Kalinga. In a feature story on TV by Howie Severino, it was found that Lubuagan pupils even outperformed the pupils of Caloocan City, Metro Manila.

Thank you Madam Norma for opening your home to us, for showing us the reasons why our language and culture are worth remembering...

Ched Arzadon

To cite:
Arzadon, C. (2015, January 6). Honoring Madam Norma Duguiang, an MTBMLE pioneer and advocate from Lubuagan. Retrieved from http://mothertongue-based.blogspot.com/2015/01/honoring-madam-norma-duguiang-mtbmle.html


Resolution in Support of the Right to Use Ilokano and Other Languages in General Education Curriculum (GEC) and Teacher Education Pre-Service Curriculum

WHEREAS, we delegates of the First International Congress on the Ilokano Language note that the use of languages in the General Education Curriculum (GEC) has become a subject of recent debate.

WHEREAS, the Philippines is a multilingual country for which multilingual policies are just, sensible, and timely;

WHEREAS, the Philippine Constitution upholds academic freedom for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and also the freedom of expression;

WHEREAS, the choice of languages should first and foremost be motivated by educational principles and not political machinations;

WHEREAS, Philippine local languages have been effectively pioneered in a variety of higher education contexts from Luzon to Mindanao, Hawaii, and beyond;

WHEREAS, there is no scientific evidence that other languages besides English and Tagalog are innately inadequate for academic discourse;

WHEREAS, the use of mother tongues can enrich classroom discourse and critical thinking, and recent research demonstrates that development of one’s first language correlates with literacy skills in second languages even into adulthood;

WHEREAS, the use of mother tongue in basic education is now institutionalized as part of the Enhanced Basic Education Curriculum (RA 10533);

WHEREAS, Filipino is the national language, it should not be privileged at the expense of others as all Philippine languages are our heritage and collective patrimony, and can be intellectualized through the initiative of their speakers;

WHEREAS, a Filipino language requirement, whether as a subject or as a medium of instruction, contradicts the purpose of General Education;

NOW, THEREFORE, the delegates of the First International Congress on the Ilokano Language duly assembled:



  • to declare that the GEC be free from medium of instruction requirements that target a specific language 
  • that should a Filipino language-related subject be included in the GEC, it should be applicable and open to various Philippine languages  
  • to revise the Teacher Education Pre-Service Curriculum thoroughly integrating MTBMLE principles and practices across the curriculum and to include local language courses and teaching using the mother tongue.

ADOPTED at the First International Congress on the Ilokano Language held at Hotel Supreme, Baguio City from 23-25 October 2014.

Resolution Supporting a Robust and Vibrant Implementation of Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTBMLE) from Kindergarten to Grade Three Including the Transition Phase from Grade Four To Six as Provided by RA 10533 “The Enhanced Basic Education Act Of 2013″

WHEREAS, we delegates of the First International Congress on the Ilokano Language have reaffirmed our rights, duties, and privilege to protect and enrich our language, a source of identity for millions of Ilokano people and an inextricable part of the fabric of Filipino society;

WHEREAS, we recognize and appreciate the bold initiatives of the Department of Education to make Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education a key component of the new basic education curriculum institutionalized through Republic Act (RA) 10533;

WHEREAS, RA 10533 states that the new basic curriculum shall be relevant, contextualized, localized and culturally sensitive, especially in the production and development of teaching materials;

WHEREAS, the policy provides that for the kindergarten and the first three (3) years of elementary education, instruction, teaching materials and assessment shall be in the languages of the region and the native language of the learners;

WHEREAS, the Department of Education (DepEd) is directed to formulate a mother language transition program from Grade 4 to Grade 6;

NOW, THEREFORE, the delegates of the First International Congress on the Ilokano Language duly assembled:


SPECIFICALLY, we pose the following components to enhance the potential of the MTBMLE program:

  • MTBMLE teachers’ training and instructional materials provided at the kindergarten level and not just at grade one
  • Mechanisms to maximize the localization of instructional materials, reflecting the lives and language variety of the community.
  • Appropriate MTBMLE approaches for private schools to likewise include languages of the region in harmony with the MTBMLE program of public schools.
  • Researched-based interventions for the delivery of instruction in multilingual classrooms so that pupils whose L1 is not the official medium of instruction will be able to succeed
  • An effective transition plan with substantive representation of the first language and gradual introduction of other languages as mediums of instruction. For example,

a. Maintaining the MTBMLE as a learning area up to at least grade six
b. L1 as medium of instruction in at least four learning areas in grade 4
c. L1 as medium of instruction in at least three learning areas in grade 5
d. L1 as medium of instruction in at least two learning areas in grade 6
e. L1 as an auxiliary medium of instruction in the remaining grade levels

  • The teaching of Filipino as a national language in the context of linguistic democracy recognizing the multilingual nature of the Philippines and the various debates and perspectives surrounding the national language.
  • Opportunities for children to use their languages in a wide assortment of activities to complement their formal instruction, foster a creative language and literacy environment, and raise the public image of DepEd’s MTBMLE program, particularly among parents. It is hence timely for the guidelines of various events to be carefully reviewed and adjusted to make room for the mother tongue, such as in the following activities:  

a. National Schools Press Conference
b. Campus journalism
c. National Heritage Month
d. International Mother Language Day
e. Cinepambata Video Festival
f. Sagisag Kultura Competition
g. National Reading Month
h. National Festival of Talents

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Nakem International and Nakem Philippines, the organizers of this Congress duly assembled, are willing to assist the Department of Education in offering a pool of language experts, educators, writers and editors realizing any of the aforementioned proposals;

ADOPTED at the First International Congress on the Ilokano Language held at Hotel Supreme, Baguio City from 23-25 October 2014.


Our Proposed General Education Language Course --Philippine Languages, Cultures and Society

Instead of adding one course in Filipino for the new General Education Program (effect of the K-12 where many GE courses are transferred to K-12), we suggest a language course that would enable students to appreciate the language diversity in the Philippines

Syllabus Draft - Philippine Languages, Cultures, and Society

3-Unit GE Course


  • Explain the many functions of languages and how they are affected by various socio-cultural factors
  • Define major concepts/terms related to language and multilingualism 
  • Write a research paper to assess the present state of Philippine languages beginning from their own local/regional context to the national level 
  • Critique the various contending positions on the national language and other related issues on  Philippine languages
  • Discuss the merits of an amalgamated/constructed language based on existing models 
  • Propose a strategy to promote social cohesion, language intellectualization/internationalization and pluralingualism for their particular regional/local context

1. Functions of languages 
a. encoding culture
b. identity/heritage
c. social cohesion
d. domains of language use
e. access knowledge/mediate learning
f. socio-cultural factors that affect language use/development (migration, globalization, technology, trade, etc)
g. present debates on languages in the Philippines

2. Our multilingual context
a. language diversity/multilingualism and pluralingualism
b. language shift/language death/creolization
c. mapping our language diversity, #speakers, vitality

3. Language planning
a. Major legal provisions on languages (Constitutions, K-12, IPRA, etc)
b. The Filipino project from 1937 to 1986 constitution (mainstream and alternative versions)
c. UNESCO framework

4. Constructed/amalgamated languages
a. The first model - Volapuk
b. The successful models  - Esperanto/Esperantidos and Interlingua
c. Other models

5. Present state of the national language project
a. Still Tagalog based
b. Alternative Filipino versions (amalgamation of languages in the Visayas/Mindanao)
c. Issues and concerns (language politics, democratizing access to resources)

6. Present state of the development Philippine languages
a. intellectualization
b. internationalization
c. Roles of various government agencies, NGOs, LGUs in the development of Philippine languages

7. Moving forward
a. Social cohesion
i. Completing the Filipino project
ii. Recognizing  lingua francas (or regional languages) as possible as official languages (India, South Africa)
b. Developing diversity/pluralingualism in the community
c. Language intellectualization and internationalization

Class participation
Group field report - assessment of Philippine languages from one’s local context to national/international
Proposal and advocacy material to promote social cohesion, intellectualization and pluralingualism


  • Ball, J. (2011). Enhancing learning of children from diverse language backgrounds: mother tongue-based bilingual or multilingual education in the early years. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from http://multilingualphilippines.com/wp- content/uploads/2012/07/ecce.pdf
  • Barron, S. (2012). Why language matters for the Millennium Development Goals. Bangkok: UNESCO.
  • D. Singleton, J. Fishman, L.Aronin and M.O'Laoire. (eds) Current multilingualism: A new linguistic dispensation,339-372. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Francisco, Juan (1998). Bhenneka Tunggal Eka: The Development of a National Language in the Philippines. Asian Studies Journal. http://asj.upd.edu.ph/mediabox/archive/ASJ-34-1998/francisco.pdf 
  • Gonzales, Andrew (2003). Language planning in multilingual countries: The case of the Philippines. http://www-01.sil.org/asia/ldc/plenary_papers/andrew_gonzales.pdf
  • Heugh, K. 2013. The South African Experience in Language Policy and Planning. In P.W. Akumbu and B. A. Chiatoh (eds). Language Policy in Africa: Perspectives for Cameroon, 108-128. Kansas City: Miraclaire Academic Publishers.
  • Hornberger, N & Putz, M (Eds) (2006). Language Loyalty, Language Planning and Language Revitalization: Recent Writings and Reflections from Joshua Fishman. Multilingual Matters
  • Inglis, Christine. Planning for Cultural Diversity. UNESCO, 2008
  • Kathleen Heugh and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas (eds.) (2012) , Multilingual education and sustainable diversity work: From periphery to center. New York: Routledge
  • Keller, Stefano and Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove (213). Linguistic Human Rights,  the UN’s Human Rights system, and the Universal Esperanto Association’s work on Language Rights. In Koutny, Ilona & Nowak, Piotr (eds).[Language, Communication, Information]. Linguistic Institute of the University Adam Mickiewicz, Poznan, Poland, 150-172. http://jki.amu.edu.pl/files/JKI%20-%20tom%208%20-%202013.pdf
  • Mohanty, A.K. (forthcoming). The Other Side of Multilingualism. Clevedon, U.K.: Multilingual Matters.
  • Mohanty, A.K., Panda, M., Phillipson, R. & Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (Eds.) (2009). Multilingual Education for Social Justice: Globalising the Local. New Delhi: Orient Longman.
  • Nolasco, R., Datar, F. & Azurin, A. (eds) (2010) Starting where the Children are: A Collection of Essays on Mother Tongue- Based Multilingual Education and Language Issues in the Philippines. 170+Talaytayan MLE Inc
  • Olthuis, Marja-Liisa,  Kivelä, Suvi, and Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove (2013). Revitalising Indigenous languages. How to recreate a lost generation. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. Series Linguistic Diversity and Language Rights
  • Pinnock, H., Mackenzie, P., Pearce, E., & Young, C. (2011). Closer to home: How to help schools in low-and middle-income countries respond to children’s language needs. CfBT Education Trust. Retrieved from http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/sites/default/files/docs/Closer-to-Home.pdf
  • Selected articles from: http://mothertongue-based.blogspot.com/ 
  • Skutnabb-Kangas T. and Heugh K. (eds) 2012. Multilingual education and sustainable development work. From periphery to center. New York and London: Routledge.
  • Smolicz, J., & Nical, I. (1997). Exporting the European idea of a national language: Some educational implications of the use of English and indigenous languages in the Philippines. International Review of Education, 43(5-6), 507–526. doi:10.1023/A:1003098223423   


It’s time to stop denying our diversity


Written by Dr. Elizabeth Caliwanagan (UP-Baguio)

AUGUST is Buwan ng Wika (Language Month). For some, this is a happy celebration; for others, it is observed just for compliance, while others avoid it out of frustration.

Before explaining why, let us review a little history. In 1968 Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Proclamation 187 establishing the Linggo ng Wikang Pambansa (National Language Week) during which government agencies and schools were told to use Pilipino in all their official communications and transactions. President Fidel Ramos altered the timeframe of this celebration in 1997, declaring the whole month of August as Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa.

For 46 years, the national government has set aside a time of the year in which Filipinos are supposed to use, prioritize, and idolize the national language. The frustrating aspect, however, is how it never seems to change. It would be wonderful if someone thought to make Buwan ng Wika more inclusive. In other countries, celebrations designed to promote language usually target regional, minority, and indigenous languages, because these are the languages that are in most need of attention. With 90 percent of the world’s 6,000 languages endangered, it is urgent that we give time to think about their place in our societies, their legacy, and their future.

The national language is not endangered. The advocacy for its use nationwide has been achieved. It is rapidly being integrated into new domains of technology like Facebook and is spreading around the world as the lingua franca of Filipinos. It is like a virus that permeated the communication system via mass media and social media.

In fact, Tagalog (or, more formally, Pilipino) is spoken by more people today than in any time in human history. In fact, even foreigners learn and speak it. By contrast, there are many Philippine languages that are endangered, and a few Ayta/Agta languages have already gone extinct. Even large languages, like Capampangan and Pangasinan are fast declining, as has been reported by this newspaper in past issues.
Without many realizing, we are gradually losing our linguistic and cultural diversity. This should be a cause for concern for everyone. In a recent conference held in China, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Director-General Dr. Irina Bokova explained why we should protect our many languages:

“I see multilingualism as essential to crafting more inclusive human development, reflecting the needs of every society. There can be no ‘one size fits all’ model. The new development agenda to follow 2015 should be universal in order to be sustainable, engaging all countries equally and reflecting their diversity.

This is an issue of human rights. It is an issue for poverty eradication and sustainable development. Ultimately, it is an issue for lasting peace, for respect and tolerance. Each of the world’s 6,000 or so languages contains its own wealth of knowledge.”

The typical refrain of Buwan ng Wika, however, is ‘one size fits all.’ What the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) tells us is that the national language fits us all. No matter if we are Bicolanos, Bisayans, Kapampangans, or Muslims, we should all just love and use the national language. There was only a brief period of three years (2006-2008) in which the KWF became more attentive to other Philippine languages, evident in Language Month themes like “Ang Buwan ng Wika ay Buwan ng mga Wika sa Pilipinas” (2006), “Maraming Wika Matatag na Bansa” (2007), “Wika mo, Wika ko, Wika ng Mundo, Mahalaga” (2008). Since then, the KWF has reverted back to a platform of uniformity. The Philippine Constitution espouses “unity in diversity”, but then why are our children forced to sing and chant about the importance of the national language for a whole month, without a single day of August in honor of their mother tongues? The KWF might argue that they do things for other languages, like the recent publication of Cordillera folk stories, but it is not enough. The big majority of their resources is spent on Pilipino.

Buwan ng Wika is frustrating to many Filipinos not because they are against the national language. They are frustrated because, after half a decade, the approach has not changed. The national language is spoken by almost all Filipinos. The national language has become more powerful than anyone expected. Is it still necessary to push it so hard, while other languages are silenced? Filipinos don’t buy the argument anymore that we have to abandon our languages to be unified. We can get along fine with our diversity. There is nothing to fear. Let’s do the right thing and make Buwan ng Wika a celebration of all our languages.
 An expounded version of this piece shall be presented in a forum held at UP Baguio on August 27 and UP Diliman on August 28, 2014