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Happy International Mother Language Day!


Batchelor Institute and the Centre for Australian Languages and Linguistics (CALL) joined with people around the world to celebrate International Mother Language Day on 21 February 2017.

International Mother Language Day has been observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The date represents the day in 1952 when students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bangla, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan, were shot and killed by police in Dhaka, the capital of what is now Bangladesh.
From the UNESCO website

The theme of this year’s day was: Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education.

“The day offers all of us a chance to say thank you to the many language champions in the Northern Territory, who support language diversity in schools, the media and in public discourse,” said CALL linguist Dr Margaret Carew.

It is also a great opportunity to highlight the linguistic diversity of Indigenous languages. It has been estimated that there were 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages spoken in Australia prior to colonisation, with up to 600 dialects. Language plays an important role in Indigenous culture. However, a large number of them are listed as critically endangered. Communities and linguists around Australia are working to preserve and promote their mother languages.

As part of the celebrations, people around the world participated in a social media meme campaign, creating humorous and reflective memes in their first languages. The image shown on the left above is an Arrernte meme created by elder MK Turner, which says Angkentye ahelhe utnengentyle, anwerne akaltyele antheme. This meme expresses the theme of International Mother Language day and what this means to Arrernte people: ‘Language is the spirit from the land, that’s the way we teach it’.

The other image above on the right says ‘This is Arrernte country, respect us’, written by Felicity Hayes.

MK Turner, Veronica Turner, Lorraine Gorey, Felicity Hayes and Leonie Palmer made this meme for International Mother Language Day. It celebrates the survival of the Arrernte language. It says ‘We remember this, that’s how it happened’.


This meme for International Mother Language day comes from Leonie Palmer. It means ‘Stay calm, carry on’. It shows Arrernte children playing in the flowing waters of Charles Creek.



Find more Mother Language memes by entering the hashtags #MLMeme. First Languages Australia were posting memes on the day from around Australia here:

MK and the Arrernte team made a number of memes as part of a literature production workshop in February – find these memes with the hashtag #Arrernte.

For more information about the Mother Language meme campaign, see:

The Centre for Australian Languages and Linguistics (CALL) is a language centre based in the Division of Higher Education and Research at Batchelor Institute. CALL collaborates with communities throughout the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and also with language initiatives across Australia.

For more information see: