Lepidopteras and Languages

Lepidopteras and Languages

Have you heard that the monarch butterfly population of California­­ is on the brink of collapse?

Even if you’ve never been to California to observe the monarchs, most of us have seen this iconic species on nature shows and in magazines, and have marveled at their seemingly endless numbers. But in the last few decades the population in California has plummeted from well over four million to just over twenty eight thousand, and scientists are predicting that without a dedicated effort toward their preservation, these delicate beauties could disappear from the planet forever….

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First Four Scholarship Recipients Successful: Peru Update

SIL LEAD is pleased to announce that four out of the first six Indigenous Peruvian Teacher Scholarship recipients have successfully completed their thesis requirements. The other two recipients are continuing to make progress on their research and writing. One of them will likely defend his thesis in August. Thank you for supporting this important effort to help keep minority language teachers in their classrooms.

SIL LEAD is also pleased to announce that its local partner, AIDI (Asociación Indígena de Desarollo Integral), has awarded six new scholarships. The awardees—three women and three men—represent the Awajún, Kakataibo, Shipibo-Konibo, and Yora language communities.

SIL LEAD’s Indigenous Peruvian Teacher Scholarship program was established to provide assistance to current and aspiring teachers who have completed four years of undergraduate coursework and who are seeking to complete their undergraduate thesis requirements so that they can receive their títulos (teaching credentials). Until recently, teachers in Peru were permitted to teach without títulos. Recent policy changes, however, now require that teachers obtain títulos in order to remain in the classroom.

The additional time to complete their theses and the significantly higher costs associated with this process make it especially challenging for indigenous teachers to complete these requirements. As a result, many indigenous teachers are losing their teaching positions.

Because SIL LEAD believes that children learn best when they are taught by teachers who speak their community’s language and value their culture, we initiated this pilot program to provide support to up to twenty-four teachers.

Through the generosity of a foundation and twenty-one individual donors, SIL LEAD has raised just over $40,000 (about 70 percent of the total goal). Based on the twelve scholarships already awarded, SIL LEAD is currently able to provide funds for six more scholarships. Read more about the program on the Peru page.

Photo Credit: AIDI

If you can’t understand, how can you learn?

For decades, the importance of mother tongue education has been recognized.  But establishing a language in education policy for a multi-ethnic country can be very challengingDr. Eirini Gouleta, who worked last year with SIL LEAD as a consultant, notes that Policies seem to be altering back and forth from mother tongue to post-colonial language depending on the political landscape and the popular trends among voters in each situation.”

On International Mother Language Day (#IMLD), UNESCO released a policy paper entitled If you don’t understand, how can you learn?  One of the key messages of this paper was that, “Education policies should recognize the importance of mother tongue learning.” In addition to acknowledging that according to “one estimate, as much as 40% of the global population does not have access to education in a language they speak or understand,” the paper also highlights evidence which demonstrates that, “At least six years of mother tongue instruction is needed to reduce learning gaps for minority language speakers.” 

This policy paper provides an excellent and brief rationale for the need for mother-tongue based multilingual education. The bottom line is that students who are not taught in their mother tongue are severely hampered in their educational attainment. When coupled with the poverty and marginalization experienced by many minority language communities, the lack of mother tongue education not only perpetuates but increases the disadvantages faced by indigenous language communities around the world. 

At SIL LEAD, we are passionate about efforts to help narrow the educational divide faced by minority language communities. We concur with Dr. Gouleta, who believes that it “is critical that solid policies in support of mother tongue [education], the issue of instruction and assessment, and the implications for accurately measuring student learning in the mother tongue be specifically addressed and safeguarded by all actors and stakeholders in education development.”  

We at SIL LEAD are committed to providing highly trained and experienced multilingual education specialists who can help guide and develop multilingual education programs and resources for minority language communities.  We are thankful that we can draw on talented individuals like Dr. Gouleta.


Dr. Eirini Gouleta is Associate Professor of Multicultural Special Education at the University of Macedonia, Greece. 

A study coauthored by Barbara Trudell, who has also served as a consultant with SIL LEAD, is also cited in the policy paper. 

How Children Learn Best

“Children who start off learning to read and write in their mother tongue do better in school. Literacy programs in mother languages bring learners the self confidence they need to participate in their communities and make informed choices.” — Irina Bokova,  UNESCO Director-General (UNESCO video, Language Matters)

The theme of this year’s International Mother Language Day (February 21, 2016) is Quality Education, Language(s) of Instruction and Learning Outcomes. We join with UNESCO and others to not only celebrate the more than 7,000 languages spoken around the world today, but to reaffirm our commitment to promoting mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB-MLE).

We at SIL LEAD believe that children learn best in a language they understand. They become proficient readers more quickly when learning in the language they speak at home than when using a language that is only used in school. Children also learn other subject matters better when they do not have to simultaneously decipher a new language. A strong foundation of reading and learning in the mother tongue even improves acquisition of second language literacy and fluency. All of this contributes to a student's long-term success.

SIL LEAD is committed to doing all that we can to promote mother tongue-based reading and learning. We are currently involved in MTB-MLE programs in Ethiopia, Nepal, and Uganda as well as a number of smaller projects. With the support of private donors, SIL LEAD is also providing scholarships to indigenous teachers in Peru who are on the front lines of teaching children in their mother tongue. And we continue to seek new opportunities where we can contribute further to promoting and developing multilingual education.

Our consultants see first hand the benefits of local teachers being equipped with quality mother tongue classroom materials.

According to Carolyn Adger, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Applied Linguistics and SIL LEAD consultant, “Research shows the value of teaching children to read in their mother tongue. Less recognized is the systemic value of preparing materials for mother tongue literacy.”

Dr. Adger recalls from her time in Uganda last year as an SIL LEAD Consultant that, “a member of the Grade 3 Runyoro Rutooro writing team in Uganda reported that when she finally saw the printed pupil book and teacher guide that her team had produced, she was overwhelmed with pride in what we cherished most: the stories that resulted from their six weeks of enormous work writing instructional materials.” When the teachers are trained on using the materials they produced, and Dr Adger said, "It’s my prayer that they too fall in love with this material."

Dr. Adger goes on to note that, “As a teachers college instructor and administrator, this team member will be preparing teachers and collaborating with colleagues and other speakers of her language for years. Each one who participates in planning, preparing, and using high quality mother tongue materials is a potential link in sustaining the mother tongue literacy network that nurtures learners.”

We are grateful for Dr. Adger and more than 50 other consultants who work with SIL LEAD to help children around the world to learn in their mother tongue.


Double Your Donation with Matching Funds

We are excited to announce that a member of SIL LEAD's Board of Directors has pledged to match all gifts to our Indigenous Peruvian Teacher Scholarship fund between now and December 31, up to a maximum of $4,000!

Given that we have received about $20,800 in pledges and contributions, this matching fund will allow us to complete the fundraising needed for six more scholarships.  But to do this we need your help to raise $4,000 by the end of this month. $2,400 is needed to fund each scholarship.  We have raised sufficient funds for the first six scholarships and the recipients have been notified by our Peruvian partner AIDI of their awards.

If, with your help, we can meet the matching fund challenge, we will be able to authorize the next six scholarships. Please consider a donation of any size to help us leverage this very generous matching fund. Secure donations may be made electronically on the donate page or by sending a check to SIL LEAD: 7500 W Camp Wisdom Rd, Dallas, TX 75236. Simply attach a separate note to your check stating that your donation is for the Indigenous Peruvian Teacher Scholarships.

To read more about SIL LEAD’s Indigenous Peruvian Teacher Scholarship project, please see our most recent blog post or visit the project webpage.

Where Education and Health Development Meet

CCIH Annual Conference, 2015: Yoram Siame, MPH, MSc, Advocacy and Public Relations Manager,  Churches Health Association of Zambia  

CCIH Annual Conference, 2015: Yoram Siame, MPH, MSc, Advocacy and Public Relations Manager, Churches Health Association of Zambia 

Development programs in education and health are often quite separate from one another. So it was refreshing to attend this year’s annual conference of Christian Connections for International Health with its theme of “Ending Extreme Poverty”. As part of that broader theme, I was invited to co-lead a session on “Lifting People out of Poverty with Innovative Educational and Economic Development Programs” in which several of us shared about the connections between education, health, and economic empowerment.

The positive responses to my presentation on “Reading in the Mother Tongue” told me that health specialists are no strangers to the challenges of local languages in health programs. One fascinating example of the intersection of health and education was a presentation on training illiterate women to serve as community health workers. The agency involved used very creative means to equip these women to interview mothers and identify any health issues warranting a referral to a clinic. It struck me that some of the reading and writing readiness activities we use in the education sector could be helpful for enabling such women, who do not know how to write, to be able to use a pen or pencil effectively in marking interview sheets with illustrations of various health concerns.

Author and SIL LEAD Executive Director, Paul Frank, giving the opening plenary presentation at this year's CCIH conference. 

Author and SIL LEAD Executive Director, Paul Frank, giving the opening plenary presentation at this year's CCIH conference. 

Given my normal focus on language and formal education I don’t often think about other sectors of development, but the common thread of empowering people to take charge of their own development and the common goal of ending extreme poverty helped me take a step back from my default viewpoint. During the conference, I was challenged to look at things from a more holistic perspective again. It was humbling to hear about some of the difficulties people in the health sector face as they work to bring adequate medical care to the most rural and unreached areas. I am encouraged by the possibilities for collaboration and contributing our experience within SIL LEAD and our partners into projects that address the pressing health needs that many minority language communities face.

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