Towards encouraging linguistic diversity and multilingual education, the UN Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos Nigeria, collaborated with UNIC Nairobi Kenya, via a video link, to commemorate the 2019 International Mother Language Day.
The dialogue which involved 20 students with 10 distinct mother tongues, emphasised the importance of mother languages to people’s identity, communication, social integration, education and development.
Receiving the students from three secondary schools, the Director of UNIC Lagos, Mr Ronald Kayanja, noted that the collaboration between UNIC Nigeria and its counterpart in Kenya was to develop greater awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions between the two countries and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.
According to him, Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. “They transmit and preserve traditional knowledge and cultures in a sustainable way. We must preserve our mother languages.” He explained.
It was so instructive and exciting as the Nigerian students shared their linguistic diversity with the Kenyan team: The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 (No Poverty) was said in Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba languages while the Nairobi team provided the Swahili language translation. According to the students
According to the Deputy Director of UNIC Nairobi, Mr Newton Kanhema, in Swahili, ‘No Poverty’ means ‘Hakuna Umaskini’. Other words which the Nigerian participants learned were ‘Hello’ which in Swahili means ‘Habari yako’ while the response is ‘Nzuri’ which means ‘Good’.
Similarly, the Nairobi participants learned that ‘No Poverty’ means ‘Ba Talauci’ in Hausa language; ‘Ise buse’ in Yoruba language and ‘Enweghi Idaogbenye’ in Igbo language. The dialogue also explored the basic greetings in the various languages.
In line with the advice of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services which encouraged people around the world to state their favorite proverb in their mother tongue, a few proverbs in local languages were discussed: “A child who refuses the wise counsel of his parents, will be taught a hard lesson by outsiders”; “No one beats his chest with a finger”; among others.
Earlier in his remarks, UNIC Lagos National Information Officer, Oluseyi Soremekun, noted that International Mother Language day has been observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. He disclosed that “every two weeks, a language disappears taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage. At least 43% of the estimated 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered.”