A day to celebrate cultural diversity and rescue underrepresented languages
Sheila Arellano // Arts & Culture Editor
Language carries culture within it, and conveys a specific view of the world. The promotion of cultural diversity has been around for years, but it wasn’t until 1999 that UNESCO created a day dedicated to promote awareness of linguistic diversity. On Feb. 21, people around the world create events to celebrate mother languages and identities. Today, the celebration of other cultures has become relevant in Capilano University as well with the International Mother Language Day event that was held on Feb. 28 by faculty members of the University. People danced, laughed, sang and clapped to the beat of Cumbia music and Latin rhythms as they celebrated the cultural diversity and language multiplicity on campus.
The coordinator of the event, Catherine Gloor, had identified the gathering as a date to celebrate cultural diversity and multilingualism at the University. Faculty member Josema Zamorano explains that “the process of colonization [has] already forced the disappearance of most languages during the last few centuries, and of the current thousands of languages currently spoken, almost 45 per cent are at the risk of disappearance.”
The resolution to make International Mother Language Day an international holiday in Bangladesh was suggested by Rafiqul Islam, a Bengali living in Vancouver, with the intention of saving the languages of the world from extinction. This highlights the importance of creating a space for mother tongues to be celebrated because, if they are not, cultures could vanish as their mother languages do, too. “I believe it is a matter of major importance to support the flourishing of current native languages, and their historical influences over the major colonial languages. Keeping their diversity would make for a more pluralistic way of understanding the world,” Zamorano said. Linguistic diversity is at risk as numerous languages fade slowly. Globally, 40 per cent of the population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand. This Capilano University event thus creates a space where people speak about this issue and creates a sense of community on campus.
Mother tongue-based education has become more prominent recently and is thriving today – the International Mother Language Day event at CapU stands as evidence of this progress. During the event, the jazzy blend of traditional Colombian rhythms created a showcase of cultural diversity. Due to the variety of people who attended the event, the gathering was multicultural. In order for societies such as North Vancouver to exist and thrive, the cultures of the world must be preserved through their traditional customs and knowledge in a sustainable manner. “In one hand, Capilano community gets to see how other cultures consider music in relation to everyday life. Cumbia, in this case, is one those rhythms most people would naturally enjoy and be skilled at dancing if you grow in the Hispanic world. In another hand, events like this spread a sense of pride for showing your own cultural background,” Zamorano said.
Keeping Indigenous languages and customs alive can be a way to partially recuperate ancestral knowledge that would otherwise be lost. By keeping alive the native cultures and languages, pressing challenges such as climate change can be faced from a broader and contrasting point of view. Art and culture are what bring people together, and sharing these backgrounds through music and sound creates a universal language that can be utilized to begin a cultural conversation. “Food sharing is another successful way for doing this, we should try a campus-wide food-sharing event in the future! And if we include music and performance there… Bum! Cultural understanding beyond our campus can grow from there,” Zamorano concludes.