SHUVO- Sokal and good morning.
What a pleasure to join you today to celebrate International Mother Language Day—one day early before the long holiday weekend begins. I’m happy to see familiar faces, including some of our U.S. government exchange program alumni, a diverse group of media outlets, as well as our dear colleagues from the Embassy to share this exciting moment.
International Mother Language Day not only holds a special place in the heart of Bangladeshis around the world, but February 21 is also a symbol of the defense of all languages. It was the 1952 language movement in Bangladesh that eventually led the United Nations to designate February 21 as International Mother Language Day.
I had the honor to meet one of my heroes, Nelson Mandela, when I was the U.S. Consul General in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mandela recognized the power and importance of connecting, human to human, heart to heart, through mother languages. He said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to a man in his own language, that goes to his heart.”
Last year for International Mother Language Day, the Embassy launched our Bengali language website, ensuring Bengali speakers from across Bangladesh and around the world could easily access information on a broad range of issues –
on key U.S. policies, including U.S. support for Bangladesh’s COVID-19 response efforts;
on opportunities to study or conduct research in the United States;
on how to apply for tourist, student, and business visas;
or learn more about the notable accomplishments of Bangladeshi-Americans.
Since that launch one million new visitors have visited our site – more than double from 2019. I think it tells us all how many Bengalis, how we all enjoy be spoken to through the heart.
In fact, last year, Ethnologue, an annual publication about the world’s living languages, ranked Bengali as the 7th most spoken language in the world, with 265 million speakers worldwide.
That is a testament to the Bengali language’s influence and the importance of connecting with Bengali speakers across the globe.
With today’s launch, this new Bengali site is one of only 10 languages with their own webpages on the ShareAmerica platform.
In honor and celebration of Bangladesh’s 50 years of independence and the U.S.- Bangladesh relationship, this site will serve as a visible, daily remembrance of U.S. respect for Bangladeshi history and culture.
We hope the new site will further expand understanding between Bangladeshis and Americans on so many topics –from U.S support for democratic practices and human rights for all, to American and Bangladeshi music and dance – another heartfelt way to express ourselves – and so much more.
As you observe International Mother Language Day during this special 50th anniversary of independence, I know you will reflect on Bangladesh’s rich history and take pride in all Bangladesh has achieved since 1952 and 1971 and look forward to what it – what you – will achieve in the next fifty years and beyond.
Those achievements will be led by young people, like those I see in this audience. You will change the world.
The young people in the Bengali Language Movement who sacrificed so much were just like you. The same flame of justice and righteousness burns in your heart. You are the hope of your nation. It’s a cliché. But it’s also true. You will lead this remarkable country into the next 50 years. Your nation and fellow citizens are relying on you, the young and young at heart. They always have and always will.
The United States looks forward to continuing to partner with the people and Government of Bangladesh to achieve your highest aspirations for your country.
We welcome your thoughts, ideas, and feedback on how we can improve the Share America Bengali site, including themes and topics you’d like to see more of.
We want to provide the best possible information and services to our Bangladeshi audience at home and around the world.
And now, to make sure Bengali speakers have interesting, fun, and thought-provoking information; to commemorate International Mother Language Day 2021 and the historic Bengali language movement that emerged here; and to celebrate Bangladesh’s 50th anniversary of independence, it is my honor and great pleasure, on behalf of the U.S. Department of State and Embassy Dhaka, to launch this new website.
[Embassy shares screenshot of ShareAmerica main webpage and navigates to “Bangla” site]
Welcome to the new Bengali language ShareAmerica website.
Thank you for joining us today for this special launch. We invite you and Bangladeshis everywhere to explore the new site and let us know what you think.
We hope you will stay connected with us