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Multilingual Education
A special session at the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Conference

Abstract for "A Language Worth Writing"

Mary Morgan, Ph.D.
SIL International

Languages and cultures are disappearing in the wake of violence, poverty, political fiats, and the pressures of technological communication. Preserving language and culture requires motivation on the part of the affected people along with political tolerance on the part of the speakers of the dominant language. Amidst civil war and the resulting hardships, language and culture preservation is taking place in Nepal.

At the same time in 1990 that the government gave tacit approval for minority languages to be used in education, Dilly Chaudhary, a farmer’s son, organized the Backward Education Society (BASE) among the Western Tharu people. BASE has mobilized the Tharu people to improve their chances of survival through education. The Tharu people also desire to preserve their own language and rich cultural traditions.

In 2001, Enterprise Development International (EDI) began a small, community based, literacy and development program focusing on women and girls in Dang, a district in the southwest Terai. The program grew quickly. By July, 2005, the staff and students produced over two hundred pieces of locally authored, edited and illustrated literature. At the request of village women, advanced classes teach Nepali as a second language and small business skills.

This paper seeks to give the linguistic, cultural and political setting for the EDI program. This is followed by a brief study of how the program was designed and implemented. The conclusion describes some of the impacts of the program on the staff as well as the villagers themselves.


Thomas, W. P. and Collier, V. (1997). School Effectiveness for Language Minority Students. National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education: Washington, DC.