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SIL International Media Release

International Mother Language Day
2007 Theme—Languages: Diversity, participation, dialogue

International Mother Language Day 2007 logo(February 2007) SIL International is participating in observances of International Mother Language Day both at Paris, France, and at New York, USA. The event has been held annually on 21 February since 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. In Paris, at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Ms. Catherine Young, SIL's Regional Literacy Consultant for Asia Pacific, is presenting a paper entitled "The challenges of bridge building: From mother tongue to multilingual education."

Also representing SIL at the Paris venue are Mr. Dave Pearson and Mr. Andrew Sweet. In New York, Dr. Kimmo Kosonen and Mr. Rick Wacek are representing SIL at the 2007 event. The day's program will focus on the linkages between mother tongue and multilingualism.

SIL is an advocate for and with ethnolinguistic communities whose voices often are not heard—those who want to express their needs in dialogue with the agencies that can help them achieve their educational goals. Multilingual education (MLE) programs build capacity for basic education in the learners' mother tongue, providing a bridge to languages of wider communication that is necessary for geographically isolated communities to be able to function in the global economy.

Multilingualism is the reality of most language contexts. The aspirations of many communities include the national language and perhaps even an international language, through which general knowledge and national values can be learned. MLE programs can promote first language literacy as well as provide the means to meet other multilingual aspirations.

Speakers of excluded communities are at a disadvantage in traditional national education systems. Although research shows that education that starts with what students know is the most efficient gateway to learning what they do not yet know. The language chosen as the medium of instruction is a chronic challenge in the development of literacy skills adequate for life-long learning and for the welfare of the country.

SIL International contributes to the academic study of language diversity through surveying, collecting oral literature and cultural information, producing dictionaries, grammars and language specific literature. In this way SIL partners with government agencies, local communities and others, not only to preserve endangered languages, but to link them with resources to help design MLE programs.

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