Happy International Mother Language Day!

By: Lauren Woodman, Microsoft General Manager, Partners in Learning

While you still have a few months to send your mom flowers for Mother’s Day, today we take time to appreciate our Mother tongue. As designated by UNESCO, International Mother Language Day reminds us of the need to preserve and respect the deep history and culture associated with the many languages spoken around our world. And rightly so. There are roughly 6,000 languages spoken globally, and half of those are projected to be in danger of being lost forever over the next century.

At Microsoft, we support the preservation of this element of culture through our Local Language Program (LLP), and in honor of today, International Mother Language Day, announce support for several new languages in Windows 7 and Office 2010. Dari (Afghanistan), Mongolian (Cyrillic – Mongolia), Turkmen (Turkmenistan) and Valencian (Spain) are now available with Windows 7 and for Office 2010, we added support for those same languages plus Maltese (Malta). With these additions, Microsoft Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010 are now available in nearly 96 languages, 60 of which are through the Local Language Program.

This program not only helps us to preserve local languages and cultures, but also helps in finding new ways to create economic opportunities and build IT skills. Through the LLP, we strive to help ensure that the identity of communities continues to thrive worldwide. As a matter of fact, nearly 1.7 billion people speak the languages that are supported by our most recently released products in the Local Language Program. We also work with Visual Studio to provide technology access in a variety of languages, including new support this year to speakers of Czech, Polish, Turkish, Brazilian Portuguese, Greek, Hungarian, Malay and Thai.

While in many parts of the world, technology has transformed the way people and businesses share and use information, improved the way children and adults learn, and helped governments address social and economic issues in ways never before imagined, people must first have access to the technology and the skills to use it. Through joint efforts by Microsoft Unlimited Potential, governments, universities, local language experts and NGOs, we’re working to reach all those currently underserved.

For a look at the real-life benefits of this tool, check out how Jan Martinovic, Associate Professor, VSB Tech University of Ostrava is using it to help his students learn programming. He shares that the “first programming language that our students learn is C/C++. When they start their study they have to not only learn this programming language or programming in general, but also how to use specific development tools and in the most cases they have to also learn English. Students study English during their education and eventually they get used to materials or tools in English. Usually English is not a problem for them after several semesters. But at the very beginning this can be a difficult situation for them and some of them even won’t make it because of their poor English. Using Visual Studio 2010 with native language pack can be crucial for such students. They can focus on programming and not on English using this language pack.” A video case study including his experience with the LLP support for the Czech language is here.

For more stories about the impact of the Local Language Program, visit the Worldwide Public Sector Virtual Press Kit.

Join me today in appreciation of the many cultures that make up our world and the ways we can help them thrive.