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Mother Tongue and Multilingual Education

International Mother Language Day 2007 logo(February 2007) SIL International contributed to the celebration of International Mother Language Day at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), held 21–23 February in Paris, France. The theme of the 2007 celebration was linkages between mother tongue and multilingualism. UNESCO has established the date 21 February for the annual observance of International Mother Language Day.

"The Challenges of Bridge Building: from Mother Tongue to Multilingual Education" was presented by Ms. Catherine Young, SIL's Regional Literacy Consultant for Asia, along with Mr. Dave Pearson and Mr. Andrew Sweet. The presentation included previews of a DVD about four successful multilingual education (MLE) programs in Asia. The DVD was launched in Bangkok on 28 February by UNESCO. It is part of an MLE Advocacy Toolkit due to be launched mid-2007. SIL and UNESCO have worked together to produce advocacy materials to encourage policy makers, implementers and parents to consider the benefits and challenges of MLE programs.

Among other topics discussed in Paris was the measurement of multilingualism in cyberspace, which included discussion of the recently released ISO 639-3 list of codes that represent names of languages. SIL was designated by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to develop and maintain the list of standardized three-letter codes that uniquely identify each language in the world. SIL is known for its commitment to serve the lesser-known language communities of the world by documenting their languages through linguistic research and encouraging their use in both formal and non-formal MLE programs.

SIL's participation in MLE involves serving as advocate for and with local communities, linking them to supportive resources and helping each build capacity to develop appropriate programs. SIL contributes to the academic study of language diversity through surveying, collecting oral literature and cultural information, and producing dictionaries, grammars and language-specific literature. In this way, SIL partners with government agencies, local communities and others, not only to preserve minority and endangered languages, but also to help design MLE programs.

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