ESCWA colleagues gathered on Thursday morning to mark a celebration of the International Mother Language Day. Celebrated on 21 February, International Mother Language Day has been observed every year since 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The United Nations estimates that more than 40 per cent of the 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. A sad statistic, as when languages are lost so are the traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking and expression that make up the world’s rich tapestry of cultural diversity.
“As you make your way around United Nations House in Beirut, you pick up a bouquet of sounds. Each expression represents an entire world on its own. And together they represent humanity combined,”, said Haifa Badreddine, Officer-in-charge of CSS, who organized the event with CSS colleagues.
In addition to enjoying some indigenous delicacies, the occasion featured a video and live performances of staff members speaking, reciting poetry and proverbs and even singing in their mother tongues, including no less than eight dialects of Arabic. A quick poll conducted by CSS found that some 24 languages and dialects are spoken among the international gang of linguists at ESCWA. Prizes were given to six staff members who spoke at least five languages and the biggest polyglot came in at seven languages.