International Mother Language Day celebrations in Christchurch by CLANZ, CANTESOL and TESOLNZ

(caption for the above picture: Sally Pitama, Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu refugee and migrant sector advocate, blessing the gathering and welcoming people from all ethnicities to Aotearoa. "Now, this is your home too. I thank you all for enriching our culture.")

- language is a human right and is critical to culture preservation, says participants

 Ukaranian group at the event

The Christchurch branch of the Community Languages Association of New Zealand (CLANZ) in cooperation with Hagley College, the Russian Cultural Centre of Christchurch and Canterbury Migrants Centre, celebrated the Day on February 18 at Hagley College. The event was also supported by the Department of Internal Affairs.

Addressing the gathering, Anna Filippochkina from CLANZ and the Russian Cultural Centre, noted, “We are here to celebrate the linguistic diversity of our multicultural community of Christchurch. We are here also to emphasise on the cognitive benefits of multilingualism, especially among children.”

Sally Carlton from Human Rights Commission New Zealand, who also hosts a locally produced podcast about human rights called Speak up – Kōrerotia, shared the history behind the celebration. “International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by the General Conference of UNESCO in November 1999. This has led to the growing realisation that language is a human right. Something that is critical for cultures to survive. It assumes even more significance in a single language dominant society such as ours.”

 Maryam from Afghanistan addressing the gathering in Pashto, the South-Central Asian language of the Pashtuns

Maryam from Afghanistan who addressing the gathering in Pashto, the South-Central Asian language of the Pashtuns, added, “Native languages are important. Only when our children know the native languages - his or her mother tongue, they feel rooted in our cultures.”