Recognizing International Mother Language Day

On Feb. 21, we commemorate International Mother Language Day. Part of The Little Market’s mission is committed to promoting and respecting the cultural identity of artisans and producers across the world. 

About International Mother Language Day

In 1999, the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed International Mother Language Day for the preservation and protection of languages spoken across the world. This is a global effort to spread awareness of the importance of language education and preservation in multilingual and multicultural communities.

Language is a primary conduit to the preservation and transmission of cultural identity. Throughout history, language has been passed down through generations by songs, stories, and poems.  About one-third of the world’s language is in written form and there are spoken languages that may have not yet been written or recorded. 

How Languages Disappear 

According to UNESCO, there are an estimated 6,000 spoken languages in the world that are endangered, and on average, a spoken language disappears every two weeks.1 A language is considered extinct when it is no longer used every day or it has evolved into a new form. For example, although studied, Latin is considered an extinct language because there are no native speakers. However, Latin evolved into modern Italian, Spanish, French, and other languages that are now spoken by millions of people across the world. Globalization is a crucial factor in the disappearance of spoken languages. English has become the modern lingua franca and individuals integrate aspects of English into their linguistic expression, which inevitably transforms traditional languages.  Another factor contributing to the loss of languages is the scarcity of first-language education, primarily of indigenous languages. Since the period of colonialism and into the present, there have been efforts to eradicate indigenous languages, sometimes through violence and laws, sometimes because indigenous populations have lost their ability to preserve their language.

A message from our team

We invite you to learn more about the artisan and producer groups that we work with. We strive to not only provide dignified work for artisans and producers, but also support the preservation of the traditional techniques of indigenous populations and other marginalized groups.


“Om in u eie taal te kan kommunikeer, is ‘n mensereg. Op Internasionale Moedertaalday, vier die Little Market die taalverskeidenheid van sy ambagpersoone.”

 – Liesl Gerntholtz, Program Advisor

English Translation

“Being able to communicate in your own language is a human right. On International Mother Tongue Day, the Little Market celebrates the linguistic diversity of its artisans.”  

– Liesl Gerntholtz, Program Advisor

Tamil (South Indian)

நம் அனைவரையும் நம் சொந்த சமூகங்களுக்குள்ளும் உலகெங்கிலும் இணைக்கும் சக்தி மொழிக்கு உண்டு. ஒவ்வொருவருக்கும் பாதுகாப்பு எவ்வளவு முக்கியமானது என்பதை நினைவூட்டுவதற்கான ஒரு சிறந்த வழியாக சர்வதேச தாய் மொழி தினம் உள்ளது.

 – Shamini Shanmugam, Product Designer

English Translation

“Language has the power to connect all of us within our own communities and around the world. International Mother Language Day is a great way to remind us of how important preservation is for every single one. “

 – Shamini Shanmugam, Product Designer


“Como gerente de desarrollo de productos en The Little Market, tengo la oportunidad de comunicarme con muchos grupos de artesanos en mi idioma materno, el español. Es muy gratificante para mí poder practicarlo diariamente y me siento muy afortunada de hacerlo a través de una organización que celebra la diversidad y enfatiza la importancia de preservar las culturas en todo el mundo. ¡Feliz día internacional de la lengua materna!”

– Edurne Jordana, Product Development Manager

English Translation 

“As the product development manager at The Little Market, I get the chance to communicate with many artisan groups in my mother language, Spanish. It is very rewarding for me to be able to practice it daily and I feel most fortunate to do so through an organization that celebrates diversity and emphasizes the importance of preserving cultures across the world. Happy International Mother Language Day!”

– Edurne Jordana, Product Development Manager

UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger reported that in the next century 50 to 90% of the world’s endangered spoken languages will disappear. Linguistic discrimination, displacement of people, and an individual or community not passing down their mother tongue due to fear of prejudices cause for languages to disappear.
“UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger.” United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – Endangered Languages. Accessed Feb. 20, 2021. Web.
“International Mother Language Day.” United Nations. Accessed Feb. 20, 2021. Web.
Mufwene, Salikoko S. “Colonization, Globalization, and the Future of Languages in the Twenty-First Century.” The University of Chicago. Accessed Feb. 20, 2021. Web.
Nuwer, Rachel. “Languages: Why We Must Save Dying Tongues.” BBC Future, BBC. June 5, 2014. Accessed Feb. 20, 2021. Web.
Woodbury, Anthony C. “What is an Endangered Language?” Linguistic Society of America. Accessed Feb. 20, 2021. Web.

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