International Mother Language Day, February 21

AILDI Celebrates International Mother Language Day

International Mother Language Day (IMLD) is celebrated annually on February 21. Designated by UNESCO in 2000, IMLD promotes the preservation and protection of all languages. AILDI has joined in the IMLD celebrations since 2016. What started out as a class project designed to engage  students in language activism by commemorating International Mother Language Day in 2016, turned into an annual display of university buildings re-named in Indigenous languages.

At that time, Dr. Tyler Peterson, who was faculty in the Linguistics department (currently faculty at Arizona State University), designed a course module where he trained  students in the basics of language documentation, including how to work with a speaker, formulating appropriate questions, working out translations, and writing and analyzing language.He  invited a number of Indigenous language speakers to visit his class over two or three sessions. In these sessions the students applied their elicitation plans, working with the speakers to translate place names around the University of Arizona campus for the purposes of making signs which were then placed on buildings on campus  to commemorate IMLD.

Dr. Peterson then proposed a collaborative project between AILDI and his LING 421/521class that involved setting up an information table on the University of Arizona Mall on IMLD (Feb 21), hosted by AILDI, and staffed by  students presenting the sign project. Working in teams, the students  temporarily mounted  the signs on pre-approved buildings on campus  and then collected them later. As a part of the course project the students also had to write a reflective piece on the activity. Based on the work produced by the class collaboration, AILDI has continued to observe IMLD with a booth on the Mall, the display of the building signs along with other activities involving a variety of students and faculty.

A timeline of the activities leading up to the building signs:

  • The 2016 course "Language Maintenance, Preservation and Revitalization" (LING 421/521)  students including the 2016 Masters of Arts in Native American Languages & Linguistics (NAMA) cohort, engaged in learning and applying language documentation
  • Indigenous language  speakers  visited the class and shared their language that went into the signs: the late John Havier (Tohono O’odham)   Marilyn Francisco (Tohono O’odham), Aresta Tsosie-Paddock (Navajo and current faculty in Linguistics)
  • Rolando Coto-Solano, AILDI GA at the time (currently faculty at Dartmouth College),  assisted the class, made the final designs of the signs, and had the signs produced
  • The Student/Faculty Interaction (SFI) Grant awarded to Tyler  Peterson (#2016-087)  supported the class project and paid for the original batch of signs
  • AILDI involvement included:
    AILDI director Ofelia Zepeda (Tohono O’odham) and Sheilah Nicholas,  Professor in Teaching, Learning & Sociocultural Studies (Hopi), served as consultants on the project (editing and proofing), and contributed additional language for the signs.
  • AILDI staff provided logistical support for the Mall booth and  coordinated with  Facilities Management to display the signs as well as providing supplemental financial support for supplies and signage

Click here for more information on the UNESCO designation of International Mother Language Day.

2016 AILDI IMLD booth on the University Mall
2016 AILDI students engage with Tohono O’odham language speaker, Marilyn Francisco.
2016 AILDI IMLD booth on the University Mall (Tatiana Degai, Tyler Peterson and Rolando Coto)