SIL Annual Update | 2017 Review Including People of All Languages

What does it mean to you to be included?

Included in society? In education? In justice, development, economic opportunities?

I grew up in the grasslands of the Western Region of Cameroon, speaking my mother tongue, Ghomálá’, one of 280 languages of the country.

Early on, this language provided me with the words and concepts that expressed my encounters with the world and shaped my personality. For this reason, Ghomálá’ is more than just a means of communication for me. Whenever someone speaks to me in this language, the words not only convey a message, but powerfully strike deep emotions by evoking my childhood experiences and reminding me who I truly am.

But over the years, I had the painful experience of needing to deny myself and the language I spoke at home in order to access education and to enjoy a better socioeconomic status. This is the tragedy of the speakers of many lesser-known languages of the world. A few of them—like me—somehow manage to acquire enough skills in dominant languages to thrive in life. However, the large majority of these people end up living in the margins of society. They drop out of the school system. They are the casual labour workforce in their nations. They end up as second-class citizens.

We can all begin to correct this injustice by striving toward societies where speakers of all languages are included. In such societies, options for language use allow everyone to celebrate their identity and assert their dignity. In these societies, people’s full potential can be unleashed as they enjoy equal access to education, to socio-economic opportunities, and to resources for spiritual growth.

I am eager for the day when all people are included in opportunities for a better life.

No matter what language they speak or sign.

No matter what script they use to read and write their language.

No matter what oral or written medium best serves their needs.

Thank you for joining SIL in this endeavor.

Dr. Michel Kenmogne

Executive Director

4,811 SIL staff originate from 84 countries

1,152 staff hold advanced degrees

549 staff consultants provide services in 9 expertise areas

Active projects in 1,700 languages spoken by 1.2 billion people

What does it mean to be included in education?

Children learn best in a language they understand well. But over 220 million children do not have access to education in their own language. SIL literacy and education consultants are passionate about fostering multilingual education (MLE) practices that allow children to be fully included in educational opportunities.

In 2017, SIL consultants provided services to improve MLE programs worldwide, including:

  • Consultant services in Africa, benefiting children in more than 150 languages
  • Assistance in the RISE PNG program in Papua New Guinea, producing 64 stories for beginning readers in each of 31 languages
  • SIL technology tools such as Bloom book-making software and SIL’s Andika font, widely preferred for literacy

“When a child goes to a mother-tongue school, she continues learning concepts based on knowledge the parents already taught at home. However, if it is a school that is not a mother-tongue school, all that the child had gathered, the ‘container of knowledge’ she carried on her head to school on the first day, is emptied.” —MLE Specialist, Cameroon

What does it mean to be included in information exchange?

Digital information exchange in today’s world presents major challenges to users of non-dominant languages. These challenges are compounded by complex writing systems. In 2017, SIL font developers added three new and five enhanced fonts to SIL’s collection of 27 fonts. One of these fonts, Awami Nastaliq, serves a wide variety of language communities in southwest Asia whose languages are written in the complex and beautiful Nastaliq script. SIL’s Graphite font technology was also upgraded to provide authentic rendering for complex scripts such as Nastaliq. Altogether, nearly 600 languages are served by SIL’s 23 non-Roman fonts.

“Thank you so much for making some of the best, most comprehensive fonts available, particularly for languages which use the Arabic script. Awami Nastaliq, in particular, recreates the typographic color and texture of handwritten Nastaliq texts far better than any other font I have seen.” —Urdu speaker

What does it mean to be included in decision making?

Non-dominant language communities face unprecedented pressure to abandon their local language and identity. SIL’s Guide to Planning the Future of Our Language helps communities understand the factors impacting their language and the resources available to them. Using the Guide’s assessment process, community members can make decisions about the future of their language. As of 2017, the Guide (now translated into at least 14 languages) has been used in assessments for more than 200 languages.

In the Philippines, SIL-trained university researchers are using the Guide to help communities assess the vitality of their languages. Some communities have initiated language instruction after realizing their language was in danger of dying. They now feel motivated and empowered to take steps to preserve their languages.

“In the past we always blamed outsiders for making us lose our language, but now I see that we have to take responsibility. We have to make the decision to take back our language and culture.” —Yanesha speaker, Peru

2017 News Briefs

Community Partnership Impact

SIL Mexico received the 2017 Juárez Award in recognition of its contribution to the moral and civic values of the country. The Award is named after Benito Juárez, a member of a Zapotec ethnic group, who became Mexico’s much-loved president and national hero.

Service through Scholarship

Newly established in 2017, SIL’s Pike Center for Integrative Scholarship aims to build capacity for language development by developing scholars and growing needed bodies of knowledge. In May 2018, Pike Center will host a symposium addressing Language and Identity in a Multilingual, Migrating World.

Knowledge Sharing

During 2017, SIL Publications released five new print books and three ePub versions of books already published in print. These publications address topics such as field phonetics, literacy, translation, cultural awareness and language use.

Interactive Language Maps

Ethnologue: Languages of the World added Premium Maps to a robust line-up of product offerings. Premium Maps allow subscribers to see exactly where any living language is spoken, each with its own interactive map. Subscribers may then zoom in for detail, zoom out for context, or access further data on how the language is used in each country.

Online Training

SIL announces its new online training platform for language development workers. Currently, the platform offers self-directed courses on language learning as well as information about online instructor-led courses on language development and face-to-face workshops offered around the world on topics like applied ethnoarts, adult education, and more.

Sign Language Alliance

Formed during a 2017 SIL Global Sign Language Team workshop, a Deaf-run alliance among sign language translation projects in the Americas is now communicating information among the teams. Their vision is to support Deaf communities in countries that don’t yet have sign language translation.

To access more information on topics mentioned in this Update: www.sil.org/2017-annual-update-read-more

SIL International is a faith-based nonprofit organization committed to serving language communities as they build their capacity for sustainable language development. SIL’s service is founded on the principle that communities should be able to pursue their social, cultural, political, economic and spiritual goals without sacrificing their ethnolinguistic identity. SIL has been an official NGO partner with UNESCO since 1993 and has had special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since 1997.

Photographers: Zeke du Plessis, Rodney Ballard, Ninja SS | Graphic fonts: Charis SIL and Annapurna SIL

© SIL International 2017 | Audited financial statements: sil.org/financial-information

SIL International | 7500 W. Camp Wisdom Road, Dallas, Texas 75236-5629 USA | Phone: 972 708-7400 | Website: www.sil.org | Contact: info_sil@sil.org

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SIL Global Communications

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