Bangladesh High Commissioner calls for declaration of 21 February as ‘London Multilingual Day’
Bangladesh High Commissioner Saida Muna Tasneem called upon the Mayor of London to declare the 21 February as ‘London Multilingual Day’ during an event organised by the Bangladesh High Commission, in partnership with UK National Commission for UNESCO to commemorate the Language Martyrs’ Day and International Mother Language Day.
The High Commissioner said: “London’s Multilingual Day [would] promote multilingualism, greater intercultural harmony and understanding amongst over the 300 multi-ethnic communities that have enriched the cultural landscape of Greater London.” Noting that Bengali is the third most spoken language in Greater London, she said the High Commission would facilitate Bengali language learning to the new generation of British-Bangladeshis.
Paying rich tribute to 1952 language martyrs, the High Commissioner recalled that according to the BBC, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the first Bengali to present his address to the United Nations General Assembly in Bangla. His missionary daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is now carrying forward the legacy by internationalising the Bangla Language Martyr’s Day as International Mother Language Day, as well as advocating for recognition of Bangla as an official language of the UN. The envoy also called upon the British Council to support conservation of over 7,000 mother languages at the International Mother Language Institute in Dhaka.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland QC paid rich tributes to the language martyrs and Bangabandhu, stating: “21 February is a great day for the international community to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity, which also reminds me of my Dominican roots and mother tongue, the Creole language.”
UK National Commission for UNESCO’s Secretary-General James Bridge cited the UNESCO-Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Award as an opportunity for recognition of outstanding global initiatives of young people engaged in culture and the creative economy. He said that the award can spread the message of language and cultural diversity within UNESCO’s multilateral forum where Bangladesh is playing a leading role.
UNESCO’s British Ambassador Laura Davies spoke about the organisation’s various initiatives to promote multilingualism, including the world atlas of 1863 languages, while emphasising promoting technology to foster multilingual learning. Other diplomatic participants included Turkish Ambassador Ümit Yalçın, Ambassador of the Republic of North Macedonia Aleksandra Miovska, Ambassador of Cuba Bárbara Montalvo Álvarez, Ambassador of Georgia Sophie Katsarava, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka Saroja Sirisena, Ambassador of Indonesia Dr Desra Percaya, and Deputy Director of the FCDO Maya Sivagnanam.
A multilingual cultural soirée followed comprising songs, dance and poetry, which was performed by different high commissions and embassies in London, highlighting language and cultural diversity.