Saturday, February 14, 2009

International Mother Language Day, 21 February

On February 18th, the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) group at UNESCO will sponsor a forum titled
Autochthonous Languages: cosmovision, globalization, development and peace
Doctor Esteban Magannon, professor emeritus of the national Institute for Languages and Eastern Civilizations (INALCO), from Philipines, and Guatemalan researcher and teacher Jesus Garcia Ruiz will be guests to the event.

The new edition of the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger of Disappearing aims to answer these questions. It will be presented to the press at UNESCO Headquarters on 19 February, on the eve of International Mother Language Day (21 February).

On February 20th, the Design 21 prize will be awarded to the designer of the winning poster for International Mother Language Day.

In honor of the day, let me share with you the most famous poem by my ancestor, Raftery the Poet:
Mise Raiftearaí an file,
Lán dóchas ‘s grá,
Le súile gan solas,
Le ciúnas gan crá…
Féach anois mé
Is mo chúl le balla
Ag seimn ceoil
Do phócaí folamh.

In translation:
I am Raftery the poet.
Full of hope and love.
My eyes without sight,
My mind without torment.

Going west on my journey
By the light of my heart,
Tired and weary
To the end of the road.

Behold me now
With my back to the wall.
Playing music
To empty pockets.
Anthony Raftery, blind from a bout with smallpox as a young boy, lived in Ireland at the and of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries -- the time when English rulers sought to wipe out Gaelic culture and the Gaelic language. His poems were not published during his lifetime, but some survived in the memories of those who heard them, and some were written down by his listeners to be saved. In the Celtic Renaissance at the end of the 19th century the surviving Raftery poems were collected and eventually published. Today Irish schoolchildren learn this poem in schools so they do not forget the Irish language, nor the things that were expressed in it.

John Daly

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