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SIL Training in Sociolinguistics

SIL provides all of its members with training in the basic concepts of sociolinguistics as well as with specialized training which applies sociolinguistics to specific aspects of language development. We also are continuously updating our personnel through workshops, seminars and conferences.


We teach three courses at various SIL schools around the world.

Language and Society is our introductory course and exposes students to the relationship between language and its sociocultural context. Topics covered include: geographical and social dialects, language and identity, domains of language use, language attitudes, and the nature of multilingual societies.

Language Program Planning is designed for the advanced student or SIL personnel with some field experience. It deals with the assessment of local and national situations and the design of a strategic plan to achieve language development goals. The course teaches an SIL-developed methodology for strategic planning called Strategic Planning and Review (SPAR) as a model for how to work with a local community in developing language development goals, identifying appropriate strategies to achieve those goals and determining specific objectives for each of the strategies.

Surveying Language Use in Multilingual Societies is an applied research methodology course which deals specifically with the theory and methods of language survey work. All SIL language survey workers are required to take this course followed by a six-month field internship where they are supervised in hands-on language survey work. Topics covered in the course include: measuring linguistic (lexical) similarity, measuring intelligibility, measuring bilingualism (including community profiles and individual proficiency), assessing language use and language attitudes.

Additional Training Opportunities

In addition to the formal courses, we encourage our members to attend and participate in conferences and professional meetings in sociolinguistics and applied linguistics. Many SIL field teams write papers for presentation at these scholarly meetings.

We also sponsor our own academic workshops, seminars and training sessions for our field personnel where experienced scholars (both SIL consultants and our International Advisors) in sociolinguistics have opportunities to interact with our members working in many different languages in many different sociolinguistic situations.

Once every four years we sponsor an International Language Assessment Conference which allows our language surveyors to meet together to discuss with each other and to update their knowledge and skills in language survey and related activities. The last such conference was held in Chiang Mai, Thailand in September, 2001.