Insisting that everyone in the world should speak a language, the United Nations General Assembly has declared 2008 the International Year of Languages. Matsuura Koichiro, director-general of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, will coordinate international efforts to stress the importance of languages and promote their study.
To D-G Matsuura, languages are essential both for individual identity and for peaceful coexistence. Education is also supported by languages through the development of literacy in first and additional languages. UNESCO also stresses the connection between cultural diversity and linguistic diversity, and with only about a quarter of all languages used in schools or in cyberspace, U.N. experts warn that up to half of the 7000 languages in the world are in danger of disappearing over the next few generations.
In conjunction with the International Year of Languages, UNESCO is encouraging government policies that support the use of first languages together with the learning of regional, national and international languages, to ensure that everyone can participate in a globalizing world.
UNESCO also encourages everyone to learn additional languages as a way to open up to other cultures and it sponsors the annual World Language Day that will take place on 21st February 2008, to celebrate everyone’s right to use their native tongue in all aspects of their daily lives and to honor people who have died to preserve their linguistic rights.