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International Literacy Day: Dictionaries in Vanuatu and literacy materials in the Solomon Islands

(September 2010) In recognition of UNESCO-designated International Literacy Day, 8 September, SIL participated in celebrations in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

SIL Vanuatu and the University of the South Pacific (USP) held a dictionary-making workshop on 9 September at the USP Port Vila campus. Led by SIL Director Ross Webb, 17 participants learned to use the WeSay computer program.

WeSay helps people who do not have linguistic training to build a dictionary in their own language. SIL field advisors helped speakers of 12 different Vanuatu languages start work on dictionaries by entering a selection of words from their respective languages. Participants took home the WeSay program to load onto their own computers. They will then be ready to proceed with compiling full dictionaries.

The ceremony and workshop in recognition of International Literacy Day was organized by a small literacy stakeholders committee from USP and SIL. USP Campus Director Mr. Peter McFarlane and USP librarian Ms. Charlotte Pitts were presented with a six-language dictionary. The dictionary is a compilation of nearly 2,000 words that SIL advisor Dr. Ken Nehrbass gathered over the many years he has lived on Tanna Island. The languages in the dictionary are the six main languages spoken on Tanna. Dr. Nehrbass commented that a vernacular dictionary contains entries that reflect the "unique cultural knowledge of that community of speakers." Mr. McFarlane said that the dictionary would complement the language collection in the USP library and gladly received the dictionary.

SIL International designed WeSay in partnership with Payap University, Chiang Mai, Thailand. The software is available under the SIL Open Source License that encourages participation in the development of applications. SIL has developed more than 60 pieces of software to support the work of field workers. Like many other SIL software products, WeSay is available to the public for free download.

Literature in languages of the Solomons

The Solomon Islands celebrated International Literacy Day, 8 September, in the capital, Honiara, where the theme of the day was “The Power of Women’s Literacy.” Celebrations included testimonies highlighting the impact of literacy in the lives of Solomon Islands women and the unveiling of literacy materials in Solomon Islands Pijin and four local languages. Some of the testimonies were presented by students attending women’s literacy classes taught by an SIL advisor.

The Literacy Association of Solomon Islands (LASI) produced six books in this installment, its second. Other contributing agencies were the Literacy Network Solomon Islands, Mothers Union and the Solomon Islands Translation and Advisory Group (SITAG, an operating name for SIL). Two of the books are in Solomon Islands Pijin and the other four are in local languages.

LASI National Coordinator Priscilla Maeniata said the books are the next level to LASI's first literacy installment that was produced in 2009. She said the literacy books will be used in schools around the country. The books for learning the Solomon Islands Pijin language are available from the LASI office.

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education Mylyn Kuve delivered the official speech of the day, speaking about the importance of women’s literacy. She also introduced the new books, thanking LASI for their effort to produce them. She said the country needs these kinds of books to support women who cannot read and write.

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