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Papua New Guinea celebrates 50 years of language development

PNG-SIL celebrates 50 yearsUKARUMPA, Papua New Guinea, April 2006: Papua New Guinea (PNG) will recognize 50 years of language development partnership with SIL International on 21 April. His Excellency Governor-General Grand Chief Sir Paulias Matane will represent the government at an anniversary celebration at Ukarumpa, SIL-PNG’s centre in the Eastern Highlands Province.

Other Papua New Guinea government officials, diplomats from several nations and representatives from nongovernmental organizations and educational institutions are also expected to attend the event.

With more than 800 languages, Papua New Guinea—a South Pacific nation of 5.5 million—is regarded as the most linguistically diverse nation on earth. For 50 years SIL personnel have been privileged to work alongside 337 of the nation’s ethnic minority languages in their efforts in language development, literacy, multilingual education, and translation.

SIL personnel are currently working with 186 more language communities throughout the country and have received additional requests for assistance with other language development and translation programs. SIL anticipates assisting 50 additional language communities in the next three years. At present the organization is staffed by personnel from 20 nations, working with about 290 permanent Papua New Guinea employees, many of whom have received training through SIL.

In January 2006, PNG issued six postage stamps to illustrate various aspects of SIL’s service to the nation over the past 50 years. Although the core of SIL’s service focuses on language development, linguistic research, literacy and translation, there are other areas of expertise in which they are currently involved, including non-print media, community development and aviation. The stamps in this collection represent only a segment of SIL’s commitment to serving the people of PNG.

Related links of interest

Language Facts

Timeline of SIL work in Papua New Guinea

1956 – SIL-PNG begins work in Papua New Guinea
1957 – First SIL language team begins work among the Tairora people
1960 – PNG government’s Director of Education asks SIL-PNG to train government officials
1969 – SIL-PNG receives UNESCO award for its work in literacy
1973 – SIL-PNG Advisory Committee begins with eight prominent Papua New Guineans
1974 – SIL-PNG begins teaching courses in linguistics and translation at University of PNG
1976 – Government and SIL-PNG personnel conduct first community development workshop
1978 – SIL-PNG begins teaching national translator training course at University of PNG
1979 – SIL-PNG receives its second UNESCO award
1983 – SIL-PNG offers its first literacy course to train national literacy workers
1988 – Partnership with the Department of Education initiated through Memorandum of Understanding
1989 – SIL-PNG seconds three literacy specialists to the national government
1994 – SIL-PNG develops the STEP course (Strengthening Tokples Education in PNG) to train national literacy workers; graduates of STEP since 1994: 165 men and women from 98 languages
2006 – Papua New Guinea’s government recognizes SIL-PNG’s 50 years of service