SIL’s Dictionary-Making Workshop is Empowering Locals to do Language and Cultural Preservation Work

The 2012 Dictionary Workshop

Language Workers and SIL Missionaries getting a glimpse of the kinds of information that goes in the initial pages of a dictionary.

The 25th of April was the end of an SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics) run Dictionary-Making workshop here in Wewak, Papua New Guinea. Participants were Papua New Guinean language workers from 11 different languages in the East and West Sepik provinces. These language workers are locals who assist the SIL missionaries in vernacular literacy as well as Bible translation.

Certain language workers were computer ‘illiterate’ so they had the opportunity to attend a week long computer course prior to the Dictionary-Making workshop. This workshop was centered around an SIL international Dictionary-Making software called “WeSay”. This software allows the user to insert all the necessary information that needs to be included in a dictionary including pictures and extra cultural information. After this workshop each language will leave with a printed trial dictionary of their language from which they can expand on.

In the past, the work on language development was entirely dependent on the expertise of SIL missionaries. However, this trend is changing. Today SIL is more focused on building the capacity of locals so they can carry the work in their own hands. With the advancement of technology and language work in the hands of locals, there is a potential for sustainable language and cultural preservation work.

The SPES team was humbled to assist in the process; from computer literacy through mentoring, editing and publication of trial dictionaries. To God be praised for this achievement.


The Course Facilitator, Correna Janzen, pointing out the essential details to her students.



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