International Year of Indigenous Languages SIL International

We at SIL International are thrilled that 2019 has been declared by the United Nations as International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Why is IYIL important? Our languages matter to each of us. They help us express our uniqueness as human beings, access information, share our thoughts, and interact and cooperate with other people.

Many people today use more than one language for these basic activities of life. But our first language–sometimes called our mother tongue–does even more than that. Our first language connects us to our identity in a way no other language can.

My first language is Ghomálá’, one of the 283 languages spoken in Cameroon.

Words in Ghomálá’ don’t just convey a message to my brain. They evoke deep memories, touch my emotions, and remind me who I truly am.

Over the years, I have 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 faced by speakers of many lesser-known languages of the world.

As the cultures and languages of the world continue to be impoverished, the quality of human life will be endangered as well. That is because language is tied to our emotions, and our identities, and all social, political and economic aspects of our lives. Everything is connected to language.

It is my desire and hope that as a global community, we will use the opportunity of this International Year of Indigenous Languages so that this generation will be known as the one that intervened for languages so that the world’s linguistic tapestry and cultural diversity was preserved.

Won't you join us?

Dr. Michel Kenmogne | Executive Director

News Articles and Stories on Location


SIL collects and publishes valuable information to document both vital and endangered languages in Ethnologue, SIL’s comprehensive reference database of languages. It is widely considered the most authoritative resource on world languages available and is used as a primary source of language information for strategic planning by development agencies, businesses, governments, and faith-based organizations worldwide. Ethnologue currently averages half a million page views per month.


Bloom, free-to-download software that accelerates literacy and multilingual education, allows indigenous language communities to create and share books quickly and simply in their local language. Many stories are easily accessed through Bloom’s online library; Bloom eases the process of translating books from around the world into community languages. The Bloom interface was designed with first-time computer users in mind, and also provides the tools to create multilingual books, calendars, and picture dictionaries.


Ethnolinguistic communities greatly benefit from the foundational literacy tool that a dictionary in their language provides. Webonary is an online platform created by SIL to give language communities the ability to publish multilingual dictionaries online with minimal technical experience. Because dictionaries are often viewed as symbols of “real” language status, appreciation of the language and a sense of cultural dignity are further heightened within the community. Webonary currently offers dictionaries in 162 languages from 46 countries.

Dictionary App Builder

Dictionaries provide an indispensable resource for literacy and education, but they are often unavailable in indigenous languages. The Dictionary App Builder helps local language speakers build customized, multilingual and monolingual dictionary apps for Android smartphones and tablets. The program allows the user to add their lexicon data, app name, fonts, information box, audio, illustration and icons and packages it together in a personalized dictionary app. This app may then be installed on Android devices, shared through Bluetooth or microSD cards, uploaded to Webonary and published to online app stores.

A Guide to Planning the Future of Our Language

As ethnolinguistic communities look to take steps towards formulating development strategies, A Guide for Planning the Future of Our Language serves as a tool, enabling SIL consultants and the community to collaboratively determine their goals. The Guide’s assessment process helps communities understand contributing factors and available resources to create language projects that are well-developed, well-resourced, well-managed and accountable.

Language & Culture Archives

SIL’s Language & Culture Archives hosts more than 70,000 catalogued entries of informative, instructional, and training materials that have been collected, compiled, or created as the result of SIL’s services to ethnolinguistic communities. These archives exist to benefit communities in pursuit of their language development goals through the preservation and open, sustainable access to knowledge and resources for present and future generations.

SIL is pleased that 2019 has been declared as International Year of Indigenous Languages by the United Nations. For us, every year is a year of languages. That’s because researching, revitalizing and promoting use of lesser-known languages is at the heart of who we are and what we have been doing for the past 85 years.

Created By
SIL Communications


Photos: Marc Ewell | Evan Falk | Martha Matski | R.M. Nunes |  Filipe Frazao | Marc Ewell | Zeke du Plessis 

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