International Mother Language Day

Manchester City of Literature project
There are about 6,500 languages in the world, and around 200 languages spoken in Manchester at any one time.

UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day is a worldwide annual observance held on 21 February to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and to promote multilingualism. It has been observed globally since 2000 and has important historical roots. In Bangladesh 21 February is the anniversary of the day when Bangladeshis fought for recognition for the Bangla language.

Manchester has been marking International Mother Language Day since 2017, in 2019 Manchester City of Literature oversaw organisation of the 2020 event onwards. Here’s a bit about what goes on each February:

IMLD 2021:
A reflection of the times, there were lots of online events, still made up of fun, family-friendly crafts and performances, discussions and workshops across Manchester – Britain’s city of languages, where half of all adults and 4 in 10 young people in the city are multilingual.

IMLD 2022:
These special celebration contained a plethora of events centred around celebration of multilingualism amongst Manchester’s libraries and various other relevant organisations, such as ‘Cooking with Words‘ with Anjum Malik.

IMLD 2023:
There were over 30 events held (20 in person, and 10 online) with a range of organisations including libraries, language centres, community centres and groups, writing groups, a publisher, an arts festival, a gallery and the newly opened Manchester Museum to name a few. The events were so different in what they offered, from talks to hands on activities and learning, but they all had a passion for multilingualism in common. A highlight of 2023’s IMLD was the beautiful multilingual chain poem created by 9 UNESCO Cities of Literature around the world, ‘Words From the Childhood Home‘.

IMLD 2024:
With many events taking place across the city, we have been very excited to welcome new organisations hosting IMLD celebrations this year! A special one for us too, as we launch a brand new exhibition with participants from 10 UNESCO Cities of Literature, on the theme of Threads.

You can join in the conversation by tagging us on social media @MCRCityofLit and using the hashtag #MotherLanguageDay.


Multi-Language Mushaira from International Mother Language Day 2019


UNESCO Celebrates International Mother Language Day


If you would like to know more about International Mother Language Day celebrations, or have an idea that you would like to be a part of the event, please get in touch.


Manchester Central Library

Home to a brand new IMLD exhibition for 2024, see Threads in the Histories Hub downstairs in City Library.