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Eastern celebrates International Mother Language Day

Published on February 24, 2023

Eastern celebrates International Mother Language Day

Mother Language Day activities

Students at Eastern Connecticut State University whose primary languages are not English took the opportunity to celebrate their linguistic and cultural diversity on International Mother Language Day on Feb. 21 in the Student Center Café.

As part of the celebration, students, faculty and staff sat with members of the World Languages and Cultures Department for short interviews in their mother language that were captured on video.

Interviews were conducted in convenient locations for students across campus. There was interview-dedicated space in Webb Hall for those who needed it. Interviews lasted two to five minutes and were compiled into a presentation shared on Feb. 21.

Gio Otieno ’25, an international student from Kenya, conducted an interview in his native Swahili. This popular language is spoken in several eastern African countries, including Kenya, Congo, Tanzania and Sudan. About 200-300 million people speak Swahili, said Otieno.

A student ambassador for the Intercultural Center, Otieno describes diversity as a “moral value” that being an international student has helped him embrace. “Diversity is the best thing. I learn from a lot of people,” he said.

For students in attendance, their backgrounds and inspirations for learning different languages varied. Aaliyah Norton ’24 is learning American Sign Language (ASL), Haitian Creole and Japanese. “I learned ASL growing up and my mom speaks Creole, but it was never really taught to me,” she said.

Amia Lott ’24 is learning Japanese and French just for the sake of learning them. “I thought they were very interesting growing up,” she said.

Students wrote their thoughts on their mother languages, using their mother languages.

International snacks were part of the event's festivities.

Students join together to discuss their first languages.

Various greetings in different languages

Students gather to spin the wheel and win prizes.

During the event, videos of the interviews were shown on several television screens throughout the Student Center Café. Many languages and dialects were spoken; for instance, students and faculty from Peru, Bolivia, Mexico and several other Latin American countries all speak very different versions of Spanish.

Emiliano Villanueva, associate professor and department chair of Business Administration, speaks Castilian, a dialect of Spanish originating in Castile, Spain. Villanueva immigrated to the United States from Argentina. He explained in his interview that this dialect has a unique Italian accent and enunciation.

Many other languages and dialects were spoken by students and faculty in interviews, including Arabic, Hindi, Yoruba, Korean, Canadian French, Bulgarian and others.


Students marked their home countries on a map.

Due to globalization today, many people must assimilate to a new language when they land in a new destination. International Mother Language Day helps to preserve languages and cultures that would otherwise be neglected. The day started in Bangladesh as a public holiday.

In 1999, it was designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to acknowledge, honor and preserve cultural and linguistic diversity.

This year’s festivities at Eastern were a collaborative effort between the Intercultural Center, the Office of Equity and Diversity, the Curriculum Center at the J. Eugene Smith Library, the departments of World Languages and Cultures and Anthropology and Sarah Tasneem, professor of computer science.

Written by Noel Teter