Celebrate International Mother Language Day

KPU-organized cultural event will be held at Bear Creek Park on Saturday, Feb. 11.

  • Feb. 8, 2017 6:00 a.m.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) wants you to raise your voice in support of International Mother Language Day.

The Feb. 11 event to be held at Bear Creek Pavilion in Surrey is organized by the university’s language and cultures department. It aims to inspire curiosity about and respect for the many different languages we hear every day in our neighbourhoods and in our communities, as well as encourage awareness and unabashed celebration of diversity.

“Language is used to communicate and connect with one another,” notes instructor Dr. Paivi Koskinen. “In a region with hundreds of languages, it is imperative for everyone to develop a fuller awareness of the different linguistic and cultural traditions of their neighbours, so that we can all live and work together amicably.”

International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1999. Its purpose is to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by the peoples of the world.

KPU’s department of language and cultures’ second annual event celebrates the five languages taught in the department: French, Japanese, Mandarin, Punjabi, and Spanish. The celebration features performances that include traditional French-Canadian music by Suzanne Leclerc and Bryn Wilkin as Vazzy, Japanese music by Kenji Seino and Haruka Kato of the Vancouver Mikoshi Sakurakai Society, classic Mandarin songs by Mingzhu Lu, and Punjabi folk music by Harman Ranvijay. The event will also display the exhibit French in Canada/Le français au Canada from the Canadian Language Museum.

The event runs from 2:30-4:30 p.m. inside Bear Creek Pavilion, 13750 88 Ave.

Admission is free and everyone is invited to attend.

Koskinen notes that Greater Vancouver is the fourth most diverse major city on the planet, after Toronto, Dubai, and Brussels. According to the 2011 census, more than 40 per cent of residents in the Metro Vancouver area are foreign born. Along with a multitude of national backgrounds come a variety of mother tongues: for instance, in 2016, children in the Surrey School District alone spoke 172 different languages.

“A mother tongue gives one a sense of identity and of belonging,” said Koskinen. “A mother tongue allows us to understand and appreciate our unique upbringing, and to relate to our grandparents and elders. It roots one in the joint history of the speakers of that language, in their stories, customs and beliefs. All children, and their families, deserve the choice to speak and learn the language of their forebears.”

Koskinen adds that colonization and globalization continue to threaten languages with smaller numbers of speakers – for example, the experiences of children being prevented from speaking their mother tongue in Canada’s residential schools – emphasizing the importance of International Mother Language Day.

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