Mother Tongue

Protect Linguistic Diversity

Each language represents a distinctive tradition, memory, and unique way of thinking and expressing oneself. Languages have a complex impact on identity, communication, and social integration, and are of great significance to human society. However, as globalization progresses, linguistic diversity begins to be threatened, and more and more languages are in danger of disappearing. When linguistic diversity wanes, so does the world’s rich cultural diversity. Currently, there are approximately 6,000 languages spoken worldwide, of which at least 43% are endangered.

Mother tongues are an important part of the national community and a carrier of values and knowledge. Mother tongues are also the basis for the transmission of intangible cultural heritage, used in spoken expressions, songs and most rituals. This reveals a deep unity between mother tongue and intangible cultural heritage.

When surveying the Chinese student community in the U.S., we found that a large number of international students and visiting scholars bring their young children with them to study abroad. These children grow up in an English-speaking environment and gradually lose their fluency in Chinese and their motivation to learn Chinese. As a non-profit organization, we hope to provide free Chinese learning activities for this group to revive their interest in Chinese and their love for Chinese culture. The first program was held in March 2022, and we recruited 30 4-8 year olds with weak Chinese language skills from international students’ families across the United States. Course materials and instruction are sponsored by Wukong EDU.

Fanni Xinxin Valisalo

CISI Mother Tongue project sponsor

Fanni is a Chinese-Finnish high school girl living in Sweden. As someone who grew up in a non-native environment, she regrets her lack of fluency in her native language and understands the importance of learning it. Mother tongue gives people a sense of home and allows them to maintain their cultural identity and recognition of their own culture.

Together with CISI, Fanni launched the Mother Tongue program, hoping to help more children learn their mother tongue and contribute to cultural diversity.

International Mother Language Day: February 21

The General Conference of UNESCO proclaimed International Mother Language Day in November 1999. In its 2002 resolution, the UN General Assembly supported and welcomed the proclamation of this day. On 16 May 2007, UN Resolution A/RES/61/266 called upon Member States “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world”. The United Nations also proclaimed 2008 to be the International Year of Languages, to promote unity in diversity and international understanding through multiculturalism. UNESCO has been designated as the lead agency. Nowadays, there is a growing awareness of the role of languages in preserving cultural diversity, preparing for intercultural dialogue, building inclusive societies, passing on cultural heritage, and contributing to sustainable development.