Rwanda will today, not officially join the rest of the world in celebrations to mark International Mother Language Day, but will instead honour the event some time in September this year, The New Times has established.
The country’s officials at the Ministry of Sports and Culture (Minispoc) revealed yesterday that they are currently busy preparing the commemorations of the 15th anniversary of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis. They indicated that they will set aside a date to celebrate the mother language later.
“We shifted its (Mother Language Day) celebrations to avoid coinciding with other anniversaries,” said Straton Nsanzabaganwa who heads the country’s ‘task force’ for language and culture.
The International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)’s General Conference in November 1999. It has been observed every year since February 2000 to ‘promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism’.
“The death of a language leads to the disappearance of many forms of intangible cultural heritage, especially the invaluable heritage of traditions and oral expressions of the community that spoke it,” said UNESCO’s Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura in a recent speech.
“The loss of languages is also detrimental to humanity’s grasp of biodiversity, as they transmit much knowledge about the nature and the universe,” he added.
UNESCO estimates that languages are ‘the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing’ tangible and intangible heritage.
Moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues also serve to develop awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue, the organisation stresses.
While Nsanzabaganwa said that over 35 million people in the Great Lakes region speak the Rwandan national language, Kinyarwanda, he said that there are no threats for it disappearing given its wide use.
“Kinyarwanda faces no threats because its speakers are very much interested in it,” he said.
In its recently updated edition ‘Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger’, UNESCO estimates that about approximately 2,500 languages around the world face dangers of extinction.
The organisation estimates that out of the approximately 6,000 existing languages in the world, more than 200 have become extinct during the last three generations, 538 are critically endangered, 502 severely endangered, 632 definitely endangered and 607 unsafe.