On Saturday the 21st of February UNESCO celebrates its 15th International Mother Language Day. This commemoration day was introduced by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in November 1999 “promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism”.
The 21st of February was chosen for this commemoration day because it represents the anniversary of the killing of Bengali student protesters in Dhaka, Pakistan (today Bangladesh), in 1952. They were demonstrating for the right to read, write, and speak their mother tongue, Bangla, when they got shot by the police.
The right to use ones own mother tongue is a fundamental right and of high importance for a community as it is closely connected with its life, history, culture, and identity.
Northern Thailand is language-wise highly heterogeneous. Next to Thailand’s national language Thai, Kham Mueang (the everyday language of Northern Thailand ) is the most important one, but there are as many different languages as ethnic minorities. These languages belong to various language families like; Tai-Kadai, Tibeto-Burman, Miao-Yao, and Mon-Khmer.
At the moment DEPDC’s Half Day School (HDS) serves students from four different linguistic backgrounds. HDS has students speaking Thai Lue, Thai Yai, Akha, and Burmese. These minority languages are still widely spoken in their communities and are often the first language our students learn in their life.
At the time students enter HDS they cover a wide range of ages and Thai language skills, making it impossible to allocate the students into classes according to their age. For this reason classes at HDS are shaped according to the students’ Thai language skills, which makes the classes even more diverse, but gives the students a chance to learn at an appropriate level for each individual.
In some terms HDS offers additional Burmese language classes for our students to give them at least a basic literacy in Myanmar’s national language.