International Mother Language Day

In addition to Slovene, residents of Slovenia speak around 50 other mother tongues

Even though Slovene is the mother tongue of a small number of speakers, it is as important as any other language. 

  • 2/15/2016
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21 February was designated International Mother Language Day by the United Nations as a day to celebrate language diversity and variety worldwide and in memory of students killed in Bangladesh on 21 February 1952 because they were demanding equal use of their mother language, Bengali, in their country.
In line with UNECSO’s Agenda 2030 goals, the theme of Mother Language Day 2016 is "Quality education, language(s) of instruction and learning outcomes". 

Mother tongue – the language one learns first

Usually one learns the language from the mother. For every person the mother tongue has a particular emotional value as in it one can express thoughts the easiest and the most subtly. Everywhere we go we take it with us.
Linguists do not agree on how many languages are spoken in the world: estimates vary between 4,000 and 10,000, not counting dialects. Some languages are mother tongues of 50 million people or more (e.g. Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabica, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese, etc.), while others (e.g. Slovene) are mother tongues of only a small number of speakers. All mother tongues, irrespective of the number of speakers, are equally valuable. The right to a mother tongue is a basic human right. 

Mother tongues in Slovenia

Demography statistics in Slovenia conducted the first register-based population census in 2011. The necessary statistical data were obtained by linking the existing statistical and administrative data sources and no longer burdening the residents of Slovenia with questions. However, such a population census no longer yields the data on mother tongue. The latest data on mother tongue were collected with the “classical” (fieldwork) 2002 population census:

  • Almost 88% of residents responded that Slovene is their mother tongue.
  • More than 8% of residents spoke as their mother tongue one of the languages of former Yugoslavia. 
  • 0.6% of residents responded that their mother tongue was Italian or Hungarian, i.e. languages of national minorities in Slovenia. 
  • 0.2% of residents used the Roma language in their living environment. 
  • For 0.1% of residents their mother tongue was German. 
  • Almost 3% of residents did not answer the question on their mother tongue, which leads us to believe that at least some of them used several mother tongues in their living environment.
 
We can assume that globalisation and global migration flows significantly changed the language landscape of the world; the Babel-like diversity of mother tongues is particularly characteristic of areas of high immigration and in areas where descendants of partners from different environments probably speak two mother tongues (but there are no statistical data regarding this). 

Demographic data for Slovenia for the last 90 years indicate that the diversity of mother tongues is now larger than before, eventhough the share of resident with Slovene as their mother tongues has been decreasing since 1953. Since 2002, when according to Census population there were more than 40 mother tongues, every year between 10,000 and 30,000 people (in 2008 and 2009) immigrated to Slovenia, most of them (almost half) from the area of former Yugoslavia. However, immigrants came from almost 30 countries. Assuming that immigrants continue to speak their mother tongues in their living environments, in addition to Slovene (the mother tongue of a vast majority of residents of Slovenia) about 50 other mother tongues are spoken in our country.

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