SACC Celebration Honors Diversity of Students’ Mother Languages

The South Asian Cultural Club (SACC) hosted an International Mother Language celebration at the ALANA Cultural Center on Tuesday, Feb. 21, in partnership with the W. M. Keck Center for Language Study. 

Sophomore and SAAC President Pahul Sachdeva invited both the SACC Treasurer, senior Ahmed Kamran, and Events Head, first-year Shafaat Mahmud, to begin the event with a conversation in Bangla, the language of Bangladesh.

“It is legacy to start with a Bengali performance given its origin in Bangladesh and for the language Bengali,” Sachdeva said.

After the performance and a presentation about the origin of World Mother Language Day, Sachdeva invited students who prepared poems or conversations in their mother tongue to present. Sachdeva also arranged for the recently-graduated President Emeritus of the SACC, Fairuz Ishraque ‘22, to attend via Zoom and give a speech about the celebration.

Esther Rosbrook, director of the ALANA Cultural Center, explained the history and significance of Mother Language Day.

“Historically, the International Mother Language Day celebrations at Colgate University are led by the South Asian Cultural Club that our office advises,” Rosbrook said. “Since 1952, after the killing of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives to preserve the mother language in Bangladesh, UNESCO [has] proclaimed International Mother Language Day [on Feb. 21] throughout the world to commemorate. Therefore, we must remember that language is essential to our identity and that one’s mother language must be celebrated.”

The diversity of attendants was reflected in the languages presented. Malayalam, Bangala, Urdu, German, Telugu and Russian, among others, were all spoken. To Sachdeva, the wide variety of cultural backgrounds on campus underlines the importance of celebrating Mother Language Day at Colgate.

“Celebrating International Mother Language Day at Colgate is crucial to promoting inclusivity, cross-cultural understanding and language education,” Sachdeva said. “It recognizes students’ diverse linguistic and cultural heritage and fosters a welcoming and accepting campus culture.”

The speakers emphasized the significance of language as a connection between trans-continental families and friendships. Presenters also discussed language as a source of both pride and shame, and how Colgate can create an atmosphere of cultural isolation. One theme of the event was how Mother Language Day pushes back against the Western insistence on English as the most valuable language.

“Celebrating Mother Language Day means promoting the awareness and importance of linguistic and cultural diversity on Colgate’s campus,” Rosbrook said. “Our students, faculty, and staff come from diverse backgrounds and speak various languages. These languages spoken on campus are proof of the rich cultures of Colgate. I am so proud to see such diversity on our campus during this year’s international Mother Language celebration at the ALANA Cultural Center. When I saw people gathered in our lounge interacting with one another, it was clear that languages foster stronger cultures and knowledge sharing in our community.”

Senior Hannah Tupper, who attended the event, agreed that the Mother Language Day celebration provided an opportunity for students to explore their identities and communities on campus.

“I think events like these are really great, just because it allows students to have a safe space to talk about things that they might not have had access to growing up, such as myself, so I think that [events like the Mother Language Day celebration] really provide a starting point for people to have these conversations,” Tupper said.