Foreign Languages Professor Hosts Events to Remind Community of Importance of Languages

Our world is a diverse place consisting of many distinctive communities, cultures and languages. Language in particular is a trait that makes it possible to communicate with others, transmit ideas and knowledge, tell stories and share experiences. The very essence of language, however, is threatened as more and more native languages become extinct.

In an effort to raise awareness of the linguistic diversity worldwide, and among our own community, East Carolina University will join in the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s celebration of International Mother Language Day on February 21.

Ricard Viñas-de-Puig, assistant professor of Hispanic Studies with a specialization in Linguistics in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at ECU, has organized a series of events to be held February 21 and 23, to engage students, faculty and scholars in a discussion regarding the importance of recognizing and preserving mother languages.

“Languages and linguistic diversity are a unique asset of humankind, and in a time where most of the world’s languages are facing a situation of endangerment, all and any efforts are necessary to raise awareness of their presence in every community,” said Viñas-de-Puig. “Eastern North Carolina and ECU are no exception and have become home to a significant number of very diverse languages and linguistic communities.”

ECU’s events for International Mother Language Day begin at 5 p.m. February 21, in Joyner Library, with opening remarks from Viñas-de-Puig on “Linguistic Diversity Starts Here: The Languages of ECU,” followed at 5:30 p.m. by a screening of the short documentary “Languages Lost and Found,” by Iris Brooks and Jon H. Davis. A Q&A session will follow the screening at 6:15 p.m. Joyner Library will provide refreshments.

A second day of events will be held February 23 from 5 – 7 p.m. in room 1032 of the Bate building. Topics pertaining to the “Mother Languages of North Carolina” will be discussed, including “New Millennium, Old Threats: ASL Under Pressure,” by Dr. Joseph Hill from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; “The Cherokee Immersion Program,” by Tom Belt and Dr. Hartwell Francis of Western Carolina University; and “Speakers’ Rights and Under-Recognized Languages,” an open discussion with Hill, Belt and Francis. Refreshments will be provided.

International Mother Language Day was established by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization at their General Conference in 1999 and has been observed every year since February 2000.

According to their web site, “Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.”

For additional information about ECU’s participation in International Mother Language Day, contact Viñas-de-Puig at 252-328-2103 or, or go to To read about the United Nation’s role in establishing International Mother Language Day, go to