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Training institute begins second session of linguistics courses in Colombia

(January 2012) On 5 January, students and instructors returned for the second session of courses in an SIL-sponsored linguistics training program known as CLAVE, Curso de Lingüística Aplicada para Vernáculo-hablantes,* held this year in Colombia.

CLAVE (the acronym means ‘key’ in Spanish) encourages students to recognize the value and uniqueness of their mother tongue. Graduates return to their communities with the skills needed to support local literacy and translation efforts.

Literacy is an important pillar of language development and long-term language viability. Dr. Wes Collins, who serves as director of CLAVE and co-director of Curso Internacional de Lingüística, Traducción and Alfabetización (CILTA)** in Peru, observes a deep commitment among students to bring literacy to their communities. Collins sees CLAVE graduates teaching more than the mechanics of reading. Rather, students will finish the program with both the technical knowledge and the vision for promoting a culture of mother-tongue literacy.

During CLAVE’s first session, which took place 24 October-16 December 2011, students received an introduction to linguistic meaning (semantics, pragmatics and translation theory), participated in a writers’ workshop and gained the computer skills necessary to format literacy materials for publication. One of the aims of session one is to provide ideas for students’ writing on cultural and community-specific topics, as well as technical linguistic matters. Students produced a number of literacy booklets and composed essays in bilingual format on strategies for maintaining and revitalizing endangered languages—their languages.

Calip Sierra, a mother-tongue speaker of Quechua, is a CLAVE graduate who returned this year as an instructor. Sierra has authored a number of literacy booklets, both as a CLAVE student and independently.

For the second session of CLAVE (5 January-2 March), courses in linguistics and computer skills will continue. Building on the foundation of session one’s linguistic meaning course, session two provides an introduction to grammar, phonology and lexicography. Students will also begin a new course on facilitating literacy programs and developing literacy materials.

Professors and teaching assistants for CLAVE are from Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico and the US. For session two, the majority of instructors are Colombian graduates of CILTA, many with several years of practical experience in language development with local communities.

*Applied Linguistics Course for Speakers of Minority Languages

**International Course in Linguistics, Translation and Literacy

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