Key Points

  • Email with all your comments and opinions!
  • DEBATE POINT: How important are local languages and traditions to you?
  • DEBATE POINT: What languages are spoken where you live?

Join the discussion


    Greetings from BBC World Class!

    This live discussion is finished now, but don't worry if you missed it - we have more debates coming soon.

    Check our 'coming up' page for more information about future debates.

    Scroll down to see what schools discussed in this debate, and keep an eye out on the World Class homepage for our latest assembly packs - which will provide the focus of each week's debate.


    20 MINUTES TO GO UPDATE: Today's debate on 'Language' isn't far off. Very soon, we'll be featuring comments and opinions from schools around the world right here on this page.

    It's not too late to get involved - all you need is an internet connection and some pupils. Scroll down for more details…


    Greetings from BBC World Class!

    We're about to kick off today's debate on the topic of 'Language' and we've already had some great comments.

    We want your pupils' thoughts on our debate points (see above), but you can send us any thoughts you have on 'Language' and tradition.

    Just email us at and we'll post your comments here as well as contributions we've already received.


    Let's kick things off with some comments from Danville Park Girls' High School in Durban, South Africa who have got in touch to tell us about languages where they live!

    Jean-Mari says: "There are 11 official languages in South Africa, three of these are taught at our school, English, Afrikaans and isiZulu."

    Gabriella adds: "I was born in the Netherlands, so I speak Dutch but can also speak English, Afrikaans and a little bit of isiZulu."

    Very impressive language skills from Jean-Mari, Gabriella and the other students of Danville Park there! Thanks very much for getting in touch!


    We have some language facts for you today!

    It's estimated that up to 7,000 different languages are spoken around the world.

    90% of these languages are used by less than 100,000 people.

    Over a million people converse in 150-200 languages and 46 languages have just a single speaker!

    Some impressive language facts there!

    Which languages can you speak? Let us know by emailing


    Hello and welcome to Vijaya International School in Agra, India who have been watching our Language videos (right)!

    Bhawesh writes:

    "I would like to learn silbo gomero because it is a whistling language. It looks like it would give us a lot of fun along with knowledge - we love to learn while enjoying! Most of the children learn fast if their study includes fun.

    We could also use this language as a secret language to communicate in case of trouble."



    The Millennium School pupils discuss 'language' in class The Millennium School pupils discuss 'language' in class

    The Millennium School in Mohali, India have been discussing 'language and tradition' in their classroom. They've even split into 2 teams, one for and one against, here are some comments from the 'for' team.

    Aman says: "Language is a road map of culture it tells you where its people come from. India is a country of diverse culture, tradition and language. The best phrase to express India is "unity in diversity". Just imagine everyone speaking the same language. How boring!"

    Riya adds: "74% of the total India's population uses local languages. When we visit a different place, maybe a different state, we find different people speaking different languages. This brings us a charm of learning the traditions of that region. "


    Danville Park Girls' High School in Durban, South Africa have sent us this picture of some of its students getting ready for a lesson in isiZulu. Their teacher is even holding a local language newspaper in the background!

    Danville Park Girls' High School Danville Park Girls' High School


    One quarter of the world's languages are spoken by fewer than 1,000 people. If these are not passed down to the next generation, they will be gone forever.


    Naman from Vijaya International School in Agra, India has got in touch to tell us about the languages spoken in India. Naman writes:

    "India has some Scheduled Languages. These languages spoken by regional people are known as regional languages of India. This includes Rajasthani, Bihari, Haryanavi, Bhili, Gondi and Tulu.

    Some Indian languages are not widely spoken; they are given the status of minority languages. Mahl and Portuguese languages come under this category."



    2,200 of the world's languages can be found in Asia, while Europe has a mere 260.


    Danville Park Girls' High School in Durban, South Africa have been discussing the importance of languages and traditions where they live.

    Brittani says: "It is really important to keep languages because it gives the community a sense of belonging

    Zainub says: "I think it is very important to keep local languages because it is important for everyone to know where they come from, also it makes you different and original."

    and Erin adds: "It is nice to hear people talking to each other in their own language."



    Alphabet Alphabet

    The Latin, or Roman, alphabet is the most widely used writing system in the world.

    Its roots go back to an alphabet used in Phoenicia, in the Eastern Mediterranean, around 1100 BC.

    This was adapted by the Greeks, whose alphabet was in turn adapted by the Romans.


    Tarandeep from Vijaya International School in Agra, India writes:

    "Our national language is Hindi and it is a compulsory subject which is taught as our first language.

    Many states in our country have made their mother tongue compulsory in the schools. But many are neglecting those to compete with national and international level of studies. Thus many dialects and some languages are already dead over a period.

    It is very important to keep our local languages and traditions live."

    Thanks very much for your comment!

    Do you agree with Tarandeep, are local languages being neglected? Let us know by emailing



    The Millennium School in Mohali, India discuss language The Millennium School in Mohali, India discuss language

    Let's hear more from the The Millennium School in Mohali, India who are having a 'language and tradition' debate in their class. Here are some comments from the team arguing against the topic - Himanshu writes:

    "We think it is not important to stick to traditions as it will not help us merge into the 21st century and it's necessary to change with time. India has been facing some social tensions based on this issue. Examples can be depicted as communal violence based on regional values or current issues of tension amongst people of different states."

    Pragya says: "Too much pride in your tradition can lead to racism and prejudice. People who think that their beliefs and their ways are best have a tendency to look down on and mistreat those who don't agree.

    Looking at the current traditional issues in India it becomes significantly important to analyse them. Differences in language and traditions often lead to a rift between two communities. Different regions, castes, states and different parts of the country have diverse issues making the government paralyzed to meet all these issues."


    UPDATE: We have 1 hour of our debate remaining. So far we've heard about the languages that are spoken and learnt where you live.

    What do you have to say on the subject? Email and let us know what you think.


    Angelica from Danville Park Girls' High School in Durban, South Africa says:

    "At our school we all learn English and then choose between Afrikaans and isiZulu and learn this as a second language.

    In the junior classes everyone learns conversational isiZulu. There are some girls who can speak up to five languages.

    Our national anthem has five of the official languages in it and our coins and notes also have the name of the country in one of the eleven official languages on them."

    Thanks very much Angelica! Does anyone else have more than one language in their national anthem? Let us know by emailing



    A Macaque monkey A Macaque monkey

    A study of macaque monkeys suggests that languages may have evolved to replace grooming as a better way of forging social ties amongst our ancestors.


    Saurab from Vijaya International School in Agra, India writes:

    "I would like to learn silbo gomero because it's very funny language. I think it's very tough to learn. Once we learn this language its difficult to understand the opposite person.

    Girls never do whistling in India because in our community whistling is treated as bad manners."



    The world's most widely spoken languages by number of native speakers and as a second language, according to figures from UNESCO (The United Nations' Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), are:

    Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, German and French.


    Danville Park Girls' High School in Durban, South Africa have sent us this photograph of an Afrikaans lesson in their school.

    The teacher is an Afrikaans speaker and the girls are learning it as a second language.

    Danville Park Girls' High School Afrikaans lesson Danville Park Girls' High School Afrikaans lesson

    A big World Class welcome to Colegio Newland in Queratero, Mexico. They write:

    "In México there are many languages, not only Spanish. In indigenous communities they speak their own language.

    For example, in Chiapas, south of México, you can find people who speak Mayan and in the centre of the country many speak Nahuatl, an Aztec language."

    Colegio Newland in Queratero, Mexico Colegio Newland in Queratero, Mexico


    Some of the oldest languages known include Sanskrit, Sumerian, Hebrew and Basque.

    Example of Hebrew writing Example of Hebrew writing

    Kirsten from Danville Park Girls' High School in Durban, South Africa writes:

    "Many languages are spoken in our country and our school, these include Arabic, Portuguese, Xhosa, Dutch, German, Chinese, Greek, because we have a lot of immigrants."

    She adds on the topic of tradition:

    "Local languages and traditions are important as if they were lost there would be no special dances and art and everyone would do the same thing."


    A big World Class hello to Simferopol, Gymnasium 9 in Ukraine who have been discussing Language in their classroom!

    Simferopol, Gymnasium 9 in Ukraine Simferopol, Gymnasium 9 in Ukraine

    Colegio Newland in Queratero, Mexico write:

    "Some young people do not want to speak their language, and only the elders do. That is sad.

    Indigenous languages are beautiful and are a part of our culture and history, that is why some schools are bilingual, some classes are in Spanish, but others in indigenous language.

    In our research we find that México has at least one indigenous language in each state. It is wonderful!"



    Many scientists believe that knowledge of another language can boost your brainpower.

    A study of monolingual and bilingual speakers suggests speaking two languages can help slow down the brain's decline with age.


    Ankur from Vijaya International School in Agra, India writes:

    "I too would like to learn silbo gomero, because I want to learn something new. And I never heard about this language. So I am very excited to learn this language.

    It will be very difficult to learn, because I don't know how to whistle, even if I know I will be unable to do it loudly because in India its very wrong to whistle.

    I am learning English language in school and I enjoy it. My mother tongue is Hindi that's why I know that language very well. Usually we speak this language in Agra."



    Millennium School in Mohali, India Millennium School in Mohali, India

    The debate teams from The Millennium School in Mohali, India have sent us some more of their comments!

    Adil writes: "I have come from England, where there are no local languages. Everyone speaks the same language, i.e. English. When I came to India I learnt different languages. It was fun learning them. Now I feel a part of this diverse culture of India."

    Whereas Kshitija, who is in the 'against' team, says:

    "There are many states with underdeveloped infrastructures where there is no electricity and no proper roads for transportation. On the other hand, the states which do are not following any traditions and are developing with rapid pace to compete with some of the biggest commercial cities in the world.

    Occasionally, everyone's cultures will collide in opinions, so altogether not much will be agreed upon. Not everyone might respect that each other has different customs and this might ruin everyone's peace."


    Let's hear more from Danville Park Girls' High School in Durban, South Africa

    Emma says "I think learning local languages is important because it shows you respect other languages and religions."

    Lauren adds "It is important to keep languages because you need to know what your ancestors taught you and you should teach your family one day."

    They've also sent us a picture of a conversational isiZulu lesson - thanks very much!

    Danville Park Girls' High School's isiZulu lesson! Danville Park Girls' High School's isiZulu lesson!

    Desh from Vijaya International School in Agra, India writes:

    "I would like to learn silbo gomero because I want to learn more and more languages. In India many of us do not know how to whistle.

    If everybody understands it or knows how to communicate with everybody in silbo gomero then it would be very easy to communicate.

    The local language in Agra is 'Hindi' and I can understand it very well because my mother tongue is same.

    It is very important to keep local language alive as they are traditional."


    Colegio Newland in Queratero, Mexico write:

    "A language is a main part of who you are and how you think.

    If we lose ancient languages, we will lose a big part of our cosmology. So, we think is very important to preserve indigenous languages."

    Thanks for your comments Colegio Newland! Do you agree, is it important to preserve indigenous languages?

    Let us know by emailing


    Rohit from Vijaya International School in Agra, India writes:

    "According to ethnologies, India is considered to be the home to 398 languages out of which 11 have been reported extinct. But still there is not a single Indian language which is spoken across its length and breadth.

    Hindi is spoken by the majority of north Indians but it's not a popular means of communication in southern part of India. Similarly south Indian languages - Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam - are not understood by the people of northern India.

    For the convenience of people, the Constitution of India has recognized 22 languages as official languages of India. These are known as Scheduled Languages and constitute the major languages of India.

    The traditions and ancient communication through different types of language should not die."



    Galaxy Galaxy

    When NASA launched the 'Voyager 1 & 2' spacecraft in 1977, they put on board golden discs containing the sights and sounds of Earth, including greetings in 55 of the world's most widely understood languages.

    These are currently travelling through space!


    We're going to wrap things up for today.

    Thanks very much to all of you for taking part and contributing some fantastic comments and pictures. It's been really interesting to hear your thoughts on 'Language' and tradition.

    We'll finish today with a quote from Nelson Mandela on language, he said:

    "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."

    Nelson Mandela Nelson Mandela

    UPDATE: We've received some more comments for today's debate. If you have anything to add email

    Helena and Mary from Gymnasia 9 in Simferopol, Ukraine write:

    "Today at English club we have talked about languages. We discussed a theme: "Is it important to save a language?"

    There are reasons for "Yes". Our mother language must live for many years. Our language is very old; our ancestors have been protecting this language for many years, so we must save it. We must respect our language, because it is the mother language of many people. Our language is popular all over the world. If many people speak this language, it will live for many years. It is also very important to save local traditions, because our ancestors honour these traditions.

    We think that if our language dies, our culture will also die. We must observe tradition so they won't disappear. We must make our traditions obligatory. We think that local languages are important, because they are unique and interesting in their own way. Each nation is proud of their language. Everyone who respects his motherland should speak his own language and do his best to save it.

    We live in Ukraine, so our national language is Ukrainian. Many nations live in our country, so you can hear discussions in many languages. We think if everyone speaks one language they will understand each other, people will be the same and they will lose their personality. We decide that it is cool to have different cultures, traditions and minds, so we must be different, because if people are the same their lives will be boring."

    The Millennium School in Mohali, India The Millennium School in Mohali, India

    The Millennium School in Mohali, India have sent us some more comments for our 'Language' debate. They were split into two teams and argued for and against 'language and tradition'

    Parul, from the 'against' team, writes: "Corruption and illiteracy are a major concern for the government as well as the citizens. In the name of traditional rituals, cruel practices like sati, child marriage etc. still exists in our society.

    Tradition is turning out to be a mask, hiding the cruelty of the world."

    Himanshu adds: "We can conclude that following old traditions will not let us merge into the society and change according to time. So, it is important that we change so there is no discrimination in the society."

    Whereas Gurleen who was arguing for 'language and tradition' concludes that:

    "Today 21st February is International Mother Language day. It is a day to respect all the local languages which are disappearing from our lives. The best way we can contribute in preserving them is to use and learn those languages.

    In the end, I would like to conclude by saying that local languages and traditions are very important for us."

    Thanks very much for all of your comments! Who do you agree with?


Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.