Celebrating the 50+ Languages Spoken on Campus

February 21, 2013

Today, February 21, is both International Mother Language Day and an annual day of national celebration of language in Bangladesh. “This holiday, even though it is the biggest source of pride for our country, is not known well in other parts of the world,” says Lamiya Mowla, a Wellesley College senior from Dhaka.

Mowla and Najira Ahmed '13 founded the Bangladeshi Student Association in Fall 2012, and submitted its application to be a constituted campus organization this semester. BSA has around 15 members so far, and welcomes students of Bangladeshi descent or anyone who is interested in the culture. The group is spearheading the observation of International Mother Language Day and Language Movement Day at Wellesley. “The project is a small effort on our part to inform everyone about the love for our language,” says Mowla.

And the organizers have invited anyone to share the love of their own mother tongue. For the holiday, BSA rallied students to help create a poster that contains the quote: "My [name of language], I love you" in about 30 different languages. Mowla and Prioty Sarwar ’16 have also produced a short video (now on Wellesley Wire) recording many students speaking their quotes in their mother languages in honor of the holiday. According to the Office of Admission at Wellesley College, 50 different home languages are spoken by students on campus this semester (see partial list below).

In Bangladesh, on the morning of February 21, people usually wear black and white and walk barefoot to Shahid Minar (pictured), a national monument in the nation's capital commemorating those killed during the Bengali Language Movement demonstrations of 1952. There they lay flowers to honor the martyrs. Amyeo Jereen '14 has built a miniature Shahid Minar, which will be at the ground floor of the Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center from 1:30 to 5 p.m. on February 21. Mowla says, "At home kids build such replicas at school, and on the morning of 21st they all leave flowers at its feet to pay respect to the Language Martyrs." Today people have the chance to write their name and the language they love on a small Post-it note and post it on the monument. It will be also be at the Slater International Center all week, for people to continue posting their favorite language on it.

BSA will also host the Global Tea with Slater International Center on Friday at 3:30 p.m., with the theme “Mother Language.” Students are invited to participate in discussing the importance of language in their culture, or to share short pieces of poem or songs in their language, and funny stories of getting lost in translation. BSA will share the history of the Bengali Language Movement, and how this day came about to be so important in the Bengali culture. 

International Mother Language Day or any day, Wellesley embraces the diversity of languages on campus—and encourages it, offering courses in more languages than any other liberal arts college.

Mother Languages at Wellesley College

  • Akan - Ghanalanguages at Wellesley in poster
  • Albanian
  • Amharic
  • Arabic
  • Armenian
  • Bengali
  • Bulgarian
  • Burmese
  • Cantonese
  • Chinese
  • Dutch
  • English
  • Filipino
  • French
  • Georgian
  • German
  • Greek
  • Gujarati
  • Hindi
  • Hungarian
  • Igbo
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Khmer
  • Korean
  • Kutchi
  • Lithuanian
  • Macedonian
  • Malay
  • Malayalam
  • Nepali
  • Norwegian
  • Persian
  • Polish
  • Portugese
  • Punjabi
  • Romanian
  • Russian
  • SerboCroat
  • Somali
  • Spanish
  • Swahili
  • Swedish
  • Tamil
  • Telugu-Ind
  • Thai
  • Tigrinya
  • Turkish
  • Urdu
  • Vietnamese