Posts Tagged ‘International Mother Language Day’

In a recent blog about Wycliffe First Steps in Belfast, I mentioned that it coincided with International Mother Language Day. Then I heard that Wycliffe colleague Clare Orr (who had been involved with Ebola prevention posters in local Senegalese languages) had been part of an International Mother Language Day in Senegal. So I asked her to write a guest blog for me… over to Clare!

Since 2000, international mother language day has been celebrated annually on the 21st February. This year, for the first time, an event was organised in Ziguinchor, southern Senegal, by the Inspection Académique (regional education authority) and SIL.*
Photo 1
SIL had invited each of our literacy partner organisations to participate. People came from all over the Casamance, all dressed up and ready for a party. We had representatives from the Bandial, Gusilay, Jola Fonyi, Karon, Mankanya, Manjaku, Kasa and Kwatay language groups, all of which are languages spoken in southern Senegal.
Photo 2b
As soon as they arrived, the Gusilay women got changed into their traditional outfits, comprised of a white t-shirt, indigo cloth as a wrap skirt, and beads strung around the torso. They started the day off with a song they had written specially, accompanied by drumming and dancing.
Photo 3
At the end of their song, we headed inside for speeches. The coordinator of each literacy project gave a speech in their mother tongue, with translation into French. The emphasis was on the value of the use of the mother tongue, particularly in education, in keeping with this year’s theme of, “Inclusive Education through and with Language – Language Matters”. This was followed by a speech by the head of the regional education authority and a speech by an SIL representative.
Photo 4
However, the dancing and singing weren’t over. Every time someone got up to make a speech, members of the audience sang and danced their way up to the front before returning to their seats to listen. That certainly kept things more interesting!
Photo 5
After the speeches, we went to another room where each partner organisation had laid out a table to exhibit their written materials. The majority of these materials have been produced in collaboration with SIL. Books, calendars, posters, photo stories and leaflets were available for everyone to see.
Photo 6
Members of the different partner organisations, some of whom understand each other’s languages, could be seen helping one another to read the other’s languages. As well as being an opportunity to show what they had, it was also a chance for each group to see what other groups had done and to get ideas for what they could produce.
Photo 7
No party would be complete without food, so we enjoyed lunch together, before some began the journey home whilst others continued to chat in their mother tongues.

* SIL is Wycliffe’s partner organisation with whom Clare works in Senegal in partnership with local language groups.

Postscript: while buying a new printer in Lisburn yesterday, I was chatting with a very helpful young sales assistant and happened to mention that I worked for Wycliffe Bible Translators. When he heard that there were about 7,000 languages spoken around the world, he replied, “And I can speak just one of them!”

Importantly though, that one is his mother language – and the Bible is readily and extravagantly available in it.

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A week or so ago, I was thinking that holding First Steps on the Saturday at the end of half term had been a daft idea! However promotion on social media went out there and, more significantly, prayer was answered: 14 people registered online and more turned up on the day. My pessimism was well and truly squashed.

And after all, it turned out that Saturday 21 February was International Mother Language Day!

Int Mother Lang day

In the end 15 participants arrived promptly at Windsor Baptist Church  to spend the day at First Steps exploring the impact of Bible translation in God’s mission… and for most, it was a chance to explore how they might become involved at home or overseas.


Stewart getting us started…

Having started by by praising God in the Logoti language of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we explored Jesus’ compassion for people in Matthew 9, before Joanna, who had just spent three days on work experience with us, shared her (rather encouragingly positive!) impressions.

Great to have Marlene with us on a brief break from maternity leave

Great to have Marlene with us on a brief break from maternity leave

Up to lunchtime, we had sessions on dictionary making in DRC accompanied by the presenter’s baby girl crying for her mother’s attention; literacy in Côte d’Ivoire; translation, personnel member care, and communications in E Africa, plus a plug for Two Week Stint by a teacher who had been there last summer.

After lunch, we were off to a market with buyers and sellers who had very different cultural rules about buying and selling and general interaction with other people. Despite the chaos, the sellers made lucrative profits on their toilet rolls, oranges and second hand trainers!

Andrea delighted at completing a sale with Mandy

Andrea delighted at completing a sale with Mandy who dropped one of her cultural rules to look the camera in the eye

Who were they, these 15 people?

Two primary teachers, both with past short term mission experience overseas.

One minister invited along by his son who was exploring his options…

Four sixth formers, two of whom have been with us on work experience in the Belfast office.

Two students from Queen’s University Belfast.

A journalist, a law lecturer, a multi-media developer – and a couple of boyfriends brought along by their girl friends.

Not to mention Lindsay, the coordinator of MAP – Mission Agencies Partnership!

God brought them along. Jesus calls us to come with him in his mission to his world wherever we happen to be.

We’re now praying that God will continue to speak to each one; that they will be encouraged that they are where God wants them to be; or that God will prompt them to be where he wants them to be in the months and years ahead. Please pray with us for wisdom as we follow up and walk alongside them.

If this blog inspires you to explore other events and opportunities with Wycliffe and Bible translation go to or to your local Wycliffe website

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