Happy International Mother Language Day!

On February 21st, the world will be celebrating the over 7,000 languages spoken across the globe. On May 16 2007 the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/61/266 called upon Member States “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world” and in 1999 declared February 21st, 2000 as the first annual “celebration of the rich cultural diversity of languages”. (http://www.un.org/en/events/motherlanguageday/background.shtml).

The importance of preserving and celebrating home languages has been recognized by NYS Education Department, Office of Bilingual Education. The Office of Bilingual Education and Foreign Language Studies (OBE-FL) recently changes its name and acronym to the Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages (OBE-WL).

What are the top languages spoken?

This seemingly straightforward question
is actually complex. Do we take into account dialects? How about bilingual speakers? Trilingual speakers? Official and national languages? Or, do consider mother tongue or home language, or the total number of people who can speak the language? What level constitutes being able to “speak” and are reading and writing required? (http://www.redlinels.com/2014/01/10/most-widely-spoken-languages)

Global Facts

What are the most common languages? According the Redlinels and the World Bank,

How about in the United States? How many languages are spoken in the United States?

There are over the 381 languages spoken in the United States.

How about New York State?

The current New York State ELL population of 300,000 has about 200 languages/ dialects spoken (OBE).

How about in Central New York?

Mid-state RBERN Region

Mid-state RBERN supports 126 school districts with over 6300 ELLs speaking over 121 home languages.

RBERN – 126 Districts Syracuse Binghamton Utica  Rome Watertown
Spanish Spanish Spanish Karen Spanish Spanish
Karen Nepali Kurdish Spanish Karen German
Arabic Karen Creoles & Pidgins Burmese Chinese Chinese
Nepali Somali Vietnamese Arabic Arabic Arabic
Somali Arabic Somali Thai Pashto
Burmese Wolof
Chinese CR-Part 154, 2013


OCM BOCES School Districts:

Our OCM BOCES districts have over 500 ELLs speaking over 50 home languages. These are the top 9 languages spoken:

  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Spanish
  • Ukrainian
  • Bosnian
  • Russian
  • Vietnamese
  • Korean
  • Hindi

What do all these facts and figures means?

It means that as more students are becoming bilingual and multilingual, communication should be easier in 2015. More students are maintaining home languages and becoming bilingual. Yet, it is also more complex because the number of different languages continues to increase.

The current New York State ELL population of 300,000 has about 200 languages spoken (OBE). School districts often hire Nationality Workers or Academic Coaches to be able to support students in school and forge an active school-home link for parents of ELLs who also might not be able to communicate in English.

Mid-state RBERN maintains a list of possible translators and interpreters. This website also actively updates glossary and dictionary sources as well as on line translation support and bilingual educator support.

Mid-state RBERNwww.ocmboces.org

CR-Part 154: www.p12.nysed.gov

Bilingual Glossaries by k-12 subject areawww.p12.nysed.gov

Spanish Language Support – Colin Colorado: www.colorincolorado.org

“When languages fade, so does the world’s rich tapestry of cultural diversity”

Of the 7,000 languages spoken across the globe, over 50% are expected to “fade away” over the next couple of generations. Most of the 7,000 languages in the world represent 4% of the global population while the 96% is made up of several hundred home languages (www.un.org).

Finding a common language to communicate while maintaining home language requires a significant amount of dedication and tenacity, especially when there are very few support materials available for the 4%.

In recognition of the importance of home languages, the Office of Bilingual Education has introduced the Bilingual Common Core Progressions and Native Language Initiatives. Stayed tune for more information regarding the NYS Seal of Biliteracy.

Pye_LisaLisa Pye

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