Every February 21st, the world commemorates the International Mother Language Day. The day was established by the United Nations to acknowledge the importance of languages and multilingualism in furthering inclusivity, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals' emphasis on leaving no one behind. This day has always been commemorated at the University of Nairobi and this year was no exception.
Aligning to this year’s theme: Using Technology for Multilingual Learning: Challenges and Opportunities, the University of Nairobi through the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) held a webinar to celebrate the day.
Speaking on behalf of the Dean, FASS, Prof. Ephraim Wahome, the Associate Dean, Prof. Jack Odhiambo noted that the African Union would be proud if by any chance learns the efforts the university is taking to celebrate the day. He said that recently the African Union recently took up activities to protect native African languages including Kiswahili, which has been formally proclaimed a workplace language.
In his presentation, Prof. Alfred Buregeya, explained the need of studying Africa's mother languages and how to do so, utilizing corpus linguistic tools. He further noted that it was our responsibility to safeguard our mother languages and assure their continuity.
Others who presented during the webinar included Dr. Ayub Mukhwana who spoke on the effects of standard Swahili as language police on Kenyan sociaolinguo scene, John Wakhome did an analysis of Lubukusu proverbs using relevance theory, Dr. Zipporah Otiso made an insightful presentation titled. To conform or not to? That’s the question implicit in Gusii women’s speeches at wedding ceremonies while Caroline Mutai made an interesting presentation on Kelujin che (go): symbol of peace among members of kalejin community.
In the famous words of George Steiner “when a language dies, a way of understanding the world dies with it, a way of looking at the world.’’ Let’s strive to preserve and protect our mother languages.