About SIL: Founded in 1934, SIL International is a nonprofit, faith-based organization dedicated to assisting those who speak the world’s lesser-known languages in attaining the necessary skills and capacity to develop their languages and preserve their cultural identities. As an international advocate for ethnolinguistic minority language groups, SIL works to facilitate local language development by means of research, translation, training and materials development. SIL makes its services available to all without regard to political ideology, religious belief, gender, race or ethnic background.
Language development is the series of ongoing, planned actions that a language community takes to ensure that their language continues to serve their changing social, cultural, political, economic, and spiritual needs and goals. SIL is committed to developing capacity among members of minority language communities who want to achieve and sustain their own language goals.
Scope: There are 6,912 languages spoken in the world with possibly 2,500 still in need of language assessment and development. SIL has conducted linguistic analysis in over 2,394 languages spoken by 1.7 billion people in more than 70 countries. In partnership with others, SIL currently works in 1,415 languages.
Key areas of SIL expertise and service:
- Partnering with minority language speakers to collect and analyze language and culture data and mentoring others to produce linguistic descriptions—phonologies, grammars and dictionaries
- Facilitating the publication of research in linguistics, anthropology, ethnomusicology and other field work
- Offering university-level courses in applied linguistics and other disciplines at more than 20 locations around the world
- Surveying languages. SIL has surveyed over 2,500 languages, contributing significant data to the Ethnologue, Languages of the World, a reference volume cataloging the world's known living languages.
- Assisting in training local people to lead sustainable literacy programs in their own communities
- Cooperating with local speakers and partner organizations to adapt or translate literature for publication on subjects such as nutrition, farming, health, and to translate some or all of the Bible
- Assisting regional and national agencies that are developing formal and nonformal education in ethnic minority languages
- Researching and developing computer software solutions needed to study languages and publish literature in a variety of writing systems
Partnerships: SIL has special consultative status with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. As an international nongovernmental organization (INGO), SIL partners with government organizations, other INGOs and local civic and religious groups.
Personnel: Founded by W. Cameron Townsend over 70 years ago as a small summer linguistics training program, SIL has expanded to an organization of more than 6,000 people from over 60 countries who serve in either language development or support roles. The late SIL linguist, Dr. Kenneth L. Pike, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, made significant contributions to the field of linguistics in phonetics and grammar.
Bringing a wide range of experience in linguistics and administration, in January 2008 Fredrick A. Boswell moved into the role of Executive Director for SIL International.