UC Santa Barbara to host International Mother Language Day Conference

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SANTA BARBARA — Sixty years ago, a group of students from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh (then known as East Pakistan) were killed as they participated in the Bengali Language Movement protests. The student activists were seeking to have Bengali recognized as an official language of Pakistan. In their honor, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1999 declared Feb. 21 — the date of the protests — as International Mother Language Day.

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese at UC Santa Barbara will recognize International Mother Language Day with a two-day conference beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23, in the McCune Conference Room, 6020 Humanities and Social Sciences Building, at UCSB, the university reported in a media release. The conference, free and open to the public, will continue at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 24, in the Mosher Alumni Center’s Alumni Hall.

The conference, which brings together a diverse group of international scholars, seeks to promote multilingualism, awareness of the plight of language minorities, tolerance toward different cultures, and the preservation of linguistic diversity. It will focus on “Protecting Identity and Diversity: Language and Cultural Rights,” examining the topic from linguistic as well as legal perspectives.

“The protection of linguistic and cultural rights allows us, as well as future generations, to enjoy and learn from mankind’s extremely diverse anthropological characteristics,” Viola Miglio, associate professor of linguistics at UCSB, and the Barandiarán Chair of Basque Studies in the Spanish and Portuguese department, stated in a media release. “Because of the intangible nature of this heritage, it is difficult to protect it and preserve it in an increasingly globalized world. This conference explores what exactly we should preserve and how, from a linguistic as well as a legal point of view.”

Among the conference participants…

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