Ten proverbs in Senegalese national languages for International Mother Language Day 2013

International Mother Language Day (IMLD) celebrated worldwide each year on 21 February promotes linguistic diversity and multilingual education.

To mark this year's celebration, UNESCO Dakar asked the Department for Literacy and National Languages (DALN) in Senegal to send proverbs in main national languages of the country. The challenge was taken up and DALN identified ten proverbs in ten national languages:

  • Uŧpi unji upel najaar. (Sénégal: Mankaañ) = A hat is never too big for a farmer
  •  Ajug kataam di kayik. (Sénégal: Manjaku) = The one who has a spoon does not burn his hands.
  • Wuuqanaam, o wuuqan xoox of raxun. (Sénégal: sérère) = It is better to cry alone than ask for people to cry for you.
  •  Cooh kaana sÍs caa kÍduk. (Sénégal: noon) = It is when the elephant dies, we get to see his teeth
  • Yalla Yalla béy sa tool. (Sénégal: wolof) = Support yourself and heaven will help you.
  • Gaynaako paaɓi anndi keen laÿooru. (Sénégal: pulaar) = It is the specialist who knows the in's and out's.
  • Nna baa be baakoo a maŋ baakuu bo i la. (Sénégal: mandinka) = My goat is on the other side of the river. It cannot meet my craving for goat
  • An faaba da doroke kutu an ŋa, an yimme na jiiba ro a yi. (Sénégal: soninké) = Your dad bought a boubou, make an effort to add a pocket.
  • Sahha kënz lhayaat (Sénégal: hassaniya) = Health is a treasure
  • Aseek oo béyinaat y ύul (Senegal: Joola) = A woman is like a shadow of palmyra

"We congratulate and thank DALN for this contribution which shows just the diversity and the incredible richness of our national languages," says Rokhaya Diawara of UNESCO Dakar.

Teaching in national languages

UNESCO's Regional Office in Dakar is working with DALN to promote literacy instruction in national languages. This is one of the key component of the literacy project PAJEF (Projet d'alphabétisation des jeunes filles et femmes), which aims at bringing literacy to 40.000 girls and women in Senegal.

The Office also published in 2011 a Planner's Guide for the Introduction of African Languages and Cultures in the Education System.

Language embodies our cultural diversity

In a message published on the occasion of International Mother Language Day, UNESCO's Director-General, Irina Bokava, states that, "multilingualism is a source of strength and opportunity for humanity".

"It embodies our cultural diversity and encourages the exchange of views, the renewal of ideas and the broadening of our capacity to imagine," she adds.

The slogan for this year's celebration is “Books for Mother tongue education”.

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