Celebrating linguistic diversity and mother languages

Sharing TWB community member stories from Nigeria 

On International Mother Language Day, we’re celebrating the richness of linguistic diversity around the world, with a special focus on the TWB Community. 

We are proud to spotlight some of our 100,000+ community members. Each person brings their unique experiences and skills to their role as a language volunteer. And we all come together for a common purpose – to embrace the power of language and communication for a more inclusive and informed world. 

CLEAR Global and TWB logos on water bottle hat and bag, International Mother Language Day

Embracing language and technology to change lives 

In parts of the world, as much as 90% of the population still do not have access to education in a language they speak or understand. Increasing numbers of children face migration and displacement, making language inclusion critical for their futures. Too many people face exclusion which is detrimental to their education, health, and livelihood opportunities, because of the language they speak. 

At TWB and CLEAR Global, we’re dedicated to bridging the language divide to create real, impactful change – better access and better communication. Thanks to TWB Community members worldwide, we’re empowering marginalized language speakers to get and share vital information in the languages they speak. These powerful stories show the importance of communication and support in someone’s mother language. 

The power of language to unite us all

Hear from TWB Community members Okafor Nkechi and Chinwendu Peace Anyanwu from Nigeria. Learn about their experiences volunteering with the TWB Community to contribute to humanitarian and development projects that support their language communities. These translators have chosen to embrace the power of language and technology worldwide to bring impactful change – equal access to education, health, and climate change information for all.

About Okafor Nkechi, Igbo interpreter and translator in Nigeria

“I am passionate about bridging linguistic gaps and ensuring effective communication between different language speakers. As a member of the TWB Community, I have contributed to projects aimed at improving language inclusion and accessibility. This work ensures that language is not a barrier to accessing vital information and services, particularly for marginalized communities who speak Igbo.”


What does it feel like to grow up learning a second language? 

“As a child, I learned in both Igbo, my mother language, and English, as a second language. Learning in a second language posed challenges such as understanding complex concepts and expressing myself fluently. However, through dedication and support, I overcame these obstacles. 

Growing up, I was exposed to a tapestry of my mother tongue which resonated deep within my soul. As I navigated through school, my love for languages grew stronger. I practiced speaking and writing in my mother tongue, and from that, I dreamed of a future where I could use my linguistic skills to make a difference in the world.”

Imagine a more equal future – no one left behind because of language

“One day, while traveling in transit to another state, I saw two different people. One was speaking my mother language, Igbo, while the other was speaking English and it was so difficult for the old women to understand. They struggled to communicate with the missionaries who spoke only in English. Seeing the frustration and confusion on both sides, I felt a fire ignite within me. At that moment, I knew that I had found my calling to be a bridge between those worlds, to ensure that no one was left behind simply because of a language barrier. 

From that day on, I dedicated myself to mastering the art of interpretation. Being an interpreter was more than just a job, it was a passion, a way of honoring my roots and preserving my heritage. I hoped to inspire others to embrace the beauty of their mother tongue and recognize the power of language to unite us all.” 

“My workspace” – Okafor

Hope for inclusive education:

“Inclusive education requires addressing language barriers by providing resources and support for students learning in their mother tongue or a second language. This can include bilingual education programs, culturally relevant teaching materials, and language support services. 

We can make education more inclusive by providing relevant, multilingual education resources, programs, and support for students and teachers. Where possible, we should make education as accessible as possible, whatever someone’s language or communication needs. By training educators on inclusive teaching strategies and celebrating cultural diversity, we can both embrace and respect learners’ identities and needs.”

Mother language access – why is it important to your community? 

“Access to essential services such as health, climate change information, and education in Igbo is crucial for effective communication and understanding within the community. It empowers individuals to make informed decisions and promotes cultural preservation.

Accessing important communications in my mother language, Igbo, is vital for several reasons: 

  • Health services: Understanding medical information, and treatment instructions, and communicating with healthcare providers in Igbo ensures clarity and accuracy in healthcare decisions. It helps to promote patient safety and improves health outcomes by reducing misunderstandings or misinterpretations due to language barriers. 
  • Climate change information: Climate change affects communities globally, including those who speak Igbo. Accessing information on climate change,  its impacts, and mitigation strategies in Igbo allows for greater understanding and engagement within the community. It empowers individuals to take appropriate actions to address environmental challenges and adapt to changing conditions. 
  • Education: Learning in one’s mother language enhances comprehension and retention of knowledge. Access to education in Igbo facilitates a deeper understanding of academic concepts, promotes cultural identity and pride, and strengthens language proficiency. It ensures that all members of the community have equitable access to quality education, regardless of their linguistic background. 

By providing these essential communications in Igbo, we promote inclusivity, empower individuals, and strengthen community resilience. Access to important communications in their language helps reaffirm Igbo speakers’ cultural identity. It acknowledges the value of respecting linguistic diversity in an increasingly interconnected world. Making crucial conversations accessible in Igbo empowers individuals to actively participate in society and engage with essential services and information. It promotes inclusivity,  ensuring that all community members, regardless of their language, age or background, have more equal access to resources and opportunities.”

– Responses by Okafor Nkechi, TWB Community member. 

About Chinwendu Peace Anyanwu, Igbo speaker in Nigeria. 

“I am a native speaker of the Igbo language. I am a linguist. I studied Linguistics and Igbo language at the University of Benin Edo State, Nigeria. I am passionate about language studies and this persuaded me to join several language volunteer programs to help promote, preserve, document, and revitalize languages on the verge of endangerment. I am a translator and an editor.”


Not allowed to speak your mother language 

The challenges of learning in a second language 

“I got my primary education in my language community [Igbo], it was easier for me to adapt as my parents were competent native speakers and I was able to acquire my first language from this setting. I learned my second language (English) in school but my first language wasn’t neglected. Acquiring Igbo as a first language was an effort made by my parents because, in schools, we were restricted from speaking vernacular, as was called by the teachers then. Sometimes, we were told to speak English and that anyone who speaks the Igbo language will have their name on the blacklist by the class prefect. So it wasn’t easier then for children who were not opportune to have their mother tongue as their first language and this gave rise to them seeing their indigenous or mother tongue as a thing of ridicule. The experience was not fair at all and they also replayed some parts of it in the secondary class, where you must debate and present in a foreign language. If you speak your mother tongue you are seen as unintelligible or you are called ‘igbotic’ or ‘local.’ 

Why study Igbo? – embracing your mother language

This didn’t stop, even in university, though my university education was not in my language. We were always stereotyped as one with a particular mother tongue/accent and this can even push some set of individuals to avoid speaking in public. This scenario led us to learn Benin pidgin English to the extent that it became hard for us to communicate with our mother tongue even among siblings. The thing about all these is when you adapt to different settings you find yourself seeing your language as one made for local champions. This has affected the Igbo language severely as it barely has young competent native speakers and writers. Even when you tell somone your course is Igbo language, the question will be “Why study Igbo? Of all the courses.” It has not been a fair experience, and not involving our mother tongue as the language of education affected our language and deprived us of having everything accessible in our own language.”


What information is most important for you to be able to access in your mother language?

“The most accessible communications are education, but through different language revitalization platforms like TWB and Wikimedia, we are striving to have more communications in my mother language, especially on climate change and health. 

This is very important as having all words in all languages breaks the knowledge gap barrier and can actually save lives. Having the sum of all human knowledge in every language is a great thing as communication and solution to problems would be easier.” 

– Responses by Chinwendu Peace Anyanwu, TWB Community member. 

A huge thank you to our contributors for International Mother Language Day, whose stories remind us to embrace diversity, break barriers, and promote linguistic equality. 

Will you join us? About TWB

The Translators without Borders (TWB) Community is at the heart of CLEAR Global, a nonprofit helping people get vital information and be heard, whatever language they speak. By joining the TWB Community, you’ll join over 100,000 people volunteering remotely from around the world to make meaningful change through language.

You’ll get a chance to provide language support to local and global organizations, helping bridge communication gaps between them and people living through a crisis – and beyond. You’ll contribute significantly to making information accessible, inclusive, and useful to people who need that information in their language.

You, too, can join the movement for a world where every voice is heard, and every language matters. Here’s how you can get involved: 

Read more on the TWB blog – discover more community member stories told by them. 

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