International Mother Language Day 2024 -Introducing a new MLE Resource from SIL

Happy International Mother Language Day! Well, if we read the history of this day, the word "happy" is probably inappropriate, as people in Bangladesh lost their lives to fight for their language. It shows the deep value people attribute to their language. Language and identity are closely related. Teaching children in their mother tongue shows acceptance of who they are and provides a basis for further learning. The IMLD(International Mother Language Day) therefore provides us with a good reason to share some powerful resources.

The International Mother Language Day is celebrated every year on the 21st of February each year. It was approved at the 1999 UNESCO General Conference and has been observed across the globe  since 2000.(UNESCO 2024) The theme of this year’s International Mother Language Day celebration 2024 is “Multilingual education is a pillar of intergenerational learning”.  UNESCO data states that as of now 250 million children and youth don't go to school and 763 million adults do not master basic literacy skills. Multilingual  Education can help to reach many who presently are not served by the school system. 

In 2016, as various agencies began to catch up to the idea of using local languages in primary grades, practical questions started to arise and some of them were quite tough. As a response, SIL published the “Good Answers to Tough Questions” document. The first question addressed is still relevant for the Indian classrooms today: “How can mother tongue–based MLE be carried out in classrooms where three or more local languages are represented as mother tongues?''I have covered this resource in detail in my post from 2019.  

More recently a second such guide, Good Answers to Tough Questions in L1-based Multilingual Education Volume 2, was published on the SIL website. This document addresses new issues and questions related to the implementation of local language-medium multilingual education programming. The authors are all experienced field consultants, and explore some of the more current MLE questions related to policy, school language mapping, orthographic challenges, digital tools for learning, early childhood education, education in emergencies, and more.

Here is a downloadable link to the book. Here are the nine tough questions that the resource tackles:

  1.  What strategies can be used to assist language-in-education policy makers to promote policies that support the use of non-dominant languages in education?  Kimmo Kosonen and Kirk R. Person( Download

  2.  What does school language mapping contribute to effective MLE programming?
    (Manasseh Wekundah)Download

  3. How can current reading methods be adapted for use with under-represented orthographies?
    (Rudy Klaas) Download

  4. How can teachers in the Global South who speak the dominant language be supported to leverage students’ whole linguistic repertoire, including non-dominant home languages? (Sangsok Son) Download

  5.  What does effective bridging look like?  (Leila Schroeder) Download

  6. What are the best uses of supplementary materials in an MLE reading program? (Kristine M. Trammell) Download

  7. How can digital devices be incorporated into MLE classrooms to enhance literacy outcomes?
    (Aaron Hemphill and Christy Hemphill) Download

  8. How can L1 language of instruction strategies be used most effectively in early childhood education? (James A. Smith and Karla J. Smith) Download

  9.  How can L1 language of instruction strategies support education in emergency contexts? (Barbara Trudell) Download

UNESCO talks about the importance of sustaining a culturally pluralistic society through the inclusion of linguistic diversity. This is precisely what a mother tongue led education facilitates. Resources such as the “Good Answers to Tough Questions” aids in better implementation of other tongue based literacy by helping education practitioners and more importantly benefitting the children, which is the ultimate goal of Multilingual Education. 


Karsten in collaboration with Upasana Lepcha


  1. International Mother Language Day | UNESCO 

  2. Good Answers to Tough Questions in L1-based Multilingual Education Volume 2 | SIL International 

  3. Good Answers to Tough Questions in Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education | SIL International

  4. [MLE-India Blog] Good Answers to Tough Questions 

  5. Trudell, B. and Dekker, D. (eds.). 2023. Good Answers to Tough Questions in L1-based Multilingual Education Volume 2. SIL International. (link to download)

Photo Courtesy - Good Answers to Tough Questions in L1-based Multilingual Education Volume 2