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American Anthropological Association conference includes special session on Multilingual Education organized by SIL staff

(November 2006) The 105th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) held in San Jose, California, (15-19 November 2006) included three SIL anthropology and literacy consultants who organized, chaired and presented papers in a session reviewed by the Council on Anthropology and Education. Since its founding in 1902, the AAA is now the world's largest professional organization of individuals interested in anthropology.

The session was titled "Mother-Tongue Education for Speakers of Ethnic Minority Languages." SIL anthropology consultant and AAA Fellow, Marilyn Gregerson of SIL's Mainland Southeast Asia Group, organized the session and presented a paper based on her fieldwork in Southeast Asia. Her paper described features of a non-formal literacy program in Ratanakiri, Cambodia, under the auspices of the nongovernmental organization International Cooperation Cambodia. In that community based program, speakers of four indigenous ethnic minority languages first learn to read their own language and then go on to learn Khmer, the national language.

The paper presented by Session Chairman, Mary Morgan, an SIL literacy consultant, described a grassroots literacy program among the Tharu people of Nepal. The program has helped the Tharu improve their chances of survival through education, and has also served as a mechanism to preserve their own language and rich cultural traditions. Isabel Murphy, SIL International Anthropology and Literacy Consultant, presented a paper on mother-tongue literacy for Brazil's Amerindian societies.

Andrea Clemons (USC) and Eva Gerente (UTA) jointly examined the relationship between non-formal education, local language education, and citizenship as it impacts rural and urban enclaves in Senegal and Guinea in West Africa. Jennifer Hays (SUNY-Albany) described an innovative mother-tongue education project in Namibia where educators demonstrated how mother-tongue education in minority languages should be seen as valuable in its own right-not merely as a bridge to the dominant language-and that it should continue beyond the first few years of schooling. Educators in Namibia and Botswana were in unanimous agreement that the economic and social benefits of providing mother-tongue education far outweigh the costs. Pamela MacKenzie (International Network for Development, UK/India) discussed mother-tongue education among some tribal groups of Andhra Pradesh State, India. Carla Paciotto (W Illinois U) described an educational system in Slovene communities in Italy where mother-tongue education continues through high school.

Professor Christine Sims (University of New Mexico) served as discussant and closed the AAA multilingual education session by highlighting the issues pointed out by the papers. In addition to her position as Assistant Professor of Education at the University of New Mexico, Professor Sims brought a unique perspective to that discussion. She is a Native American who continues to live at the Acoma Pubelo which has been continuously occupied by her forebears for centuries. One of her concerns is that the younger generation of Acoma people will continue to be able to speak their mother-tongue (Keres) in the face of the wide-spread use of English among young people in the pueblo.

The papers presented in the session were:

Clemons, Andrea (University of Southern California) and Gerente, Eva. (University of Texas at Arlington)  Language, non-formal education, and political Identity: A comparative study.

Hays, Jennifer. (State University of New York-Albany)  Steps forward and new challenges: Mother tongue education in southern Africa.

Murphy, Isabel I. (SIL International)  Maintaining two worlds: Mother tongue literacy for Brazil’s Amerindian societies.

MacKenzie, Pamela. (International Network for Development, UK/India)  Multilingual education among the tribal communities in India.

Morgan, Mary. (SIL International)  A language worth writing.

Gregerson, Marilyn J. (SIL International)  Learning to read In Ratanakiri:  A case study from Northeast Cambodia.  (Council on Anthropology and Education)

Paciotto, Carla. (Western Illinois University)  Heritage Language Programs: The case of the Slovene high schools in Italy.

Additional SIL Participation at AAA

Five other SIL anthropologists attended the AAA annual meeting. Tom Woodward presented a workshop with NCSU Professor Tim Wallace titled “FieldWorks Data Notebook 2.1: Writing and Managing Fieldnotes.” (Sponsor: National Association for the Practice of Anthropology) Thomas N. Headland chaired the meeting of the Network of Christian Anthropologists. David Wakefield, SIL International Anthropology Department Coordinator, David Beine, Director of Oregon SIL and Ken Gregerson, former SIL International president, attended as observers.

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