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2008: International Year of Languages

UNESCO invites all its partners to increase their own activities to promote and protect all languages, particularly endangered languages, in all individual and collective contexts.

© UNESCO/Maro Haas
On 16 May 2007, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2008 to be the International Year of Languages. As language issues are central to UNESCO’s mandate in education, science, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information, the Organization has been named the lead agency for this event.

To facilitate partnership and monitoring, a communication tool kit is available, as well as a list of possible fields of action and a list of the projects currently undertaken in the framework of the International Year of Languages. To submit your project to the list, please fill in the project form.


News Thematic debate on languages at UNESCO’s Executive Board
News Report on International Year of Languages launching at UNESCO
News Call for Papers: 2nd Conference on Language Development, Language Revitalization and Multilingual Education in Ethnolinguistic Communities (1-3 July 2008, Bangkok)
News Message from Mr Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, on the celebration of 2008, International Year of Languages


Events Esperanto, a fair language

Within the framework of the International Year of Languages and marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ludwik Zamenhof, the inventor of Esperanto, the Permanent Delegation of Lithuania to UNESCO and the Permanent Delegation of Poland to UNESCO, in close cooperation with the Universal Esperanto Association, organize a conference "Esperanto, a fair language".

Ludwik Zamenhof constructed the language, which was not intended to be a mere communication tool, but a way of promoting the peaceful coexistence of different peoples and cultures. Currently, it is an instrument of dialogue for almost two million people worldwide.

The conference will take place on Monday, 15 December 2008, at 5.30 p.m. in the UNESCO Room II (125, avenue de Suffren).

During the conference, three presentations on Esperanto and on Ludwik Zamenhof himself will be given as well as a short lesson on Esperanto.

Events UNESCO-UNU International Conference on Globalization and Languages: Building on our Rich Heritage
The conference will be co-hosted by Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO and Konrad Osterwalder, Rector of the UNU and will bring together eminent experts from politics, academia, international organizations, non-governmental organizations and civil society to discuss the ways and means to protect languages, promote multilingualism and preserve linguistic diversity in light of the challenges and opportunities associated with the processes of globalization. Attention will be given to the essential role that languages play in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Education for All (EFA) goals and in building truly inclusive knowledge societies.
Events Coloquio OEP-UNESCO: "Los intelectuales y artistas para el plurilingüismo y la diversidad"
(UNESCO, a las 15 horas, sala XI).

En un mundo marcado por la universalización (mundialización o globalización) y la normalización, para responder a una amenaza efectiva de uniformización cultural y lingüística, el respeto de las diversidades culturales y lingüísticas de cada uno cobra una importancia creciente, y el papel del intelectual y del artista se vuelve central, como vector y mediador del saber y las culturas del mundo.

Cada artista pone sobre la gente una mirada única, que posee por su misma singularidad una parte de universalidad. Lo mismo ocurre con las lenguas y las culturas," el desafío que tenemos que levantar o rehacer [siendo] en realidad el del carácter irreemplazable de las lenguas de cultura, porque cada una opera una abertura (obertura) específica sobre el universal humano. " (Heinz Wismann).

La diversidad de las lenguas y de las culturas es una riqueza y una fuente inagotable de creatividad que  hay que defender para un mundo respetuoso de las diferencias de cada uno. Precisamente es el sentido  (dirección) del día " Los intelectuales y artistas para el plurilinguismo y la diversidad cultural ".
Intelectuales, escritores, poetas, filósofos, científicos, actores, cineastas, autores, compositores, intérpretes, pintores, escultores, artistas del mundo entero son invitados a dejar oír sus voces su manera  sobre la diversidad lingüística y cultural.

La manifestación,organizada por el OEP, con concurso y bajo la eguida de la UNESCO en el marco del Año 2008, Año internacional de los idiomas.

Events Video Conference: “Mother tongue: a multi-faceted, changing concept”

A conference organised by the Multilingualism Sector, Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission.

This bilingual conference (FR/EN) will aim to give a broad overview of the mother tongue issue and its practical impact on language learning and language use in businesses.

The speakers will be Dr Laurence Mettewie, who contributed to Rudi Janssens’ study on the use of languages in Brussels, and her colleague Luk Van Mensel.

They will question the relevance of the mother tongue concept and explore the European Union's language policy with the help of concrete examples.

They will focus in particular on linguistic attitudes as an incentive or an obstacle to learning languages in bilingual communities and on multilingualism as an asset or a constraint for businesses.

Events Calendar of Events
  • 21 Febuary:  (UNESCO Paris) Official Launching of the Year with a Conference on standard-setting instruments promoting multilingualism

  • 5-7 March:  (Johannesburg, South-Africa) and 22 to 24 April (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) Conferences of the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN) on "The role of trans-border languages and of lesser-used languages in Africa" 

  • 28 May: (UNESCO Paris) Conference of  ACALAN on "African Languages as a factor of integration" 

  • 9 June: (Paris, France) Launch of the Chirac Foundation and its Programme for the Protection of Endangered Languages

  • 13-15 June: (Eisenstadt, Austria) International Conference “Multilingualism in every-day life"

  • 1-3 July: (Bangkok Thailand) 2nd International Conference on Language Development, Language Revitalization and Multilingual Education in Ethnolinguistic Communities;

  • 2-4 July: (Yakutsk, Russian Federation) International Conference "Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Cyberspace"

  • 27-28 August: (Tokyo, Japan) UNU-UNESCO Conference “Multilingualism and Globalization"

  • 7 October:  (UNESCO, Paris) Executive Board Thematic Debate on “Protecting indigenous and endangered languages and the role of languages in promoting EFA in the context of sustainable development.”

  • 9-10 October: (Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain) International Conference “Challenges of Minority Languages at the Globalization Age”

  • 4 November: (UN Association of Spain, Lleida) International Year of Languages Seminar

  • 27-20 November: Minority languiages conference, Helsinki

  • 17 December: Linguistic Diversity, Globalization and Development, UN Headquarters, NYC

Events International Seminar on Literacy of Indigenous Youth and Adults

In the framework of International Mother Language Day and the International Year of Languages, the UIL was one of four UNESCO partners – in cooperation with the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) – behind the organization of an International Seminar on Literacy of Indigenous Youth and Adults held in Guatemala from 11 to 13 February 2008.

Drawing on studies carried out in their respective countries, researchers from seven Latin American countries – Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru – met to discuss both the current literacy situation of indigenous populations and effective literacy practices in multicultural and multilingual contexts. The event’s participants included the Minister of Education from Guatemala, Ms Ana Ordóñez de Molina, and several NGOs, universities and other stakeholders.


Documents General Assembly proclaims 2008 International Year of Languages
General Assembly proclaims 2008 International Year of Languages, in effort to promote Unity in Diversity, Global Understanding (GA/10592)

© 2008 - UNESCO