CIES celebrates International Mother Language Day


International Mother Language Day, Feb 21, 2023. Photo courtesy of Bao Nguyen (‘26)

On February 21, the Center for Intercultural Engagement and Support (CIES) hosted an International Mother Language Day celebration in the Mott-Borlaug Room. Recognized by the United Nations, this is an international annual observance that promotes awareness of cultural diversity and multilingualism. 


The event was sponsored by Jaraad Ahmed (‘25), Resana Zayan (‘26), and Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics Syed Al-Helal Uddin. All three sponsors gave a presentation about how the celebration originated in their home country, Bangladesh, through the Language Movement.


The Language Movement of Bangladesh began in 1948. At the time, Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan, and the government of Pakistan made Urdu the official language, a language many did not speak. People took to the streets to protest this decision, and, in February of 1956, Bengali was made an official language. While the Language Movement is now considered a historical event, its implications still affect those like Ahmed. 


“The first thing [I did] was [call] my dad, and I was like, ‘so I’m doing this presentation, you got any pointers?’” Ahmed said. “He sort of gave me the whole spiel. I’ve already been educated about the whole history by going to school and listening to my grandpa. That was one of my favorite things to do with my grandfather before he passed. I asked him a question and fell asleep to him talking about the whole liberation war and the Language Movement.”


Following the presentation, the room engaged in an activity that involved sharing a phrase in each person’s mother language that does not translate fully to English. With many languages represented in the room, many phrases were shared and appreciated by the diverse community in attendance. The phrases shared included words from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam, Germany, and many more. Faneeza Malik (‘26), a first-year from Pakistan, expressed her fascination with the activity. 


“It actually made me realize that there are some words that are hard to translate from my native language,” Malik said. “The word I took was tishnagi [تشنگی]. That word means passion, or something like that. I cannot translate it into English. When I [use] Google Translate, it shows me toast, which is not true.”


With Luther being an institution with a commitment to celebrate diversity, this event signified the importance of preserving diversity and furthering the inclusion of the numerous cultures students represent. Uddin, the host of the event, discussed the meaning of this celebration.


“Think about the aims or the goals of Luther, we are not pushing you to be docked with one ideology,” Uddin said. “That’s a liberal arts education system. You are going to learn everything, and you are spreading out your knowledge in different branches. That’s how we are making a diverse culture.”


The CIES office will continue to promote diversity on campus through a variety of upcoming events. On February 28, Director of Customer Support at Collins Aerospace Haywood Stowe will share how the servant leadership philosophy has become ingrained in his leadership practice in the last event celebrating Black History Month at Luther College.