The Executive Director, National Institute for Nigerian Languages, Ben Elugbe, has urged the Federal Government to sustain the ‘meta-language’ project it introduced for the development of various languages in the country.
Mr. Elugbe made the appeal in an interview in his office at the Akpaa-Mbato campus of the institute, near Aba, in Abia.
He spoke against the backdrop of the International Mother Languages Day, which was being celebrated worldwide on Saturday.
He said that the day, themed, Mother Tongue: Our Collective Heritage, was set aside by the United Nations to celebrate the importance of mother tongue to national development.
The executive director said developing Nigerian languages would promote development in other sectors, including science.
He explained that being the first language babies usually pick from mothers’ laps, mother tongue “is the basis of a child’s language development, understanding and cooperation with the society.’’
Mr. Elugbe, therefore, urged parents to communicate with their children in their mother tongue, to preserve local languages and help children to understand their world and culture better.
In a separate interview, a senior lecturer at the institute, Yotam Tsumba, charged Nigerians to always conduct their socio-cultural activities in their mother tongue.
He said that mother tongue, laced with parables, helps in teaching the children morals and the language vocabulary.
Mr. Tsumba said such communication should not be limited to exchange of greetings, but in all facets of life “if they hoped to preserve their native language.”
The institute organised various events to mark the day, including presentations in Ghotuo (Edo), Tiv, Ibibio, Yoruba, Bwatiye and Igbo languages.
The event was attended by secondary school students and teachers in Aba, as well as representatives of Otu Suwakwa Igbo and Igbodum foundations.