Chances are good that if you don’t deal with significant physical disability on a regular basis—whether your own or that of someone you care about—you rarely, if ever, think about all the amazing capabilities that your more normally-abled body affords. This is perfectly understandable. We all live our own lives, and it’s usually only in the face of jarring change or loss that we pause to reflect on what we have, or in some cases had. It can be tempting, then, to view occasional encounters with the disabled as though they somehow exist for us—as though their challenges were nothing more than a reminder of our health…Read More
There are many opportunities in the world of aid work for good intentions to have negative effects. Give everyone in a vulnerable population a pair of free shoes, for example, and before you know it you’ve bankrupted the local cobbler. Bring in a western-style agricultural program, and you might just discover that local resources won’t support it and you’ve created a cycle of dependence. That’s why we at SIL LEAD take very seriously our mission as a faith-based nonprofit to help local, community-based organizations use their own languages to improve their quality of life…Read More
It seems like every few weeks now we hear about some exciting new innovation in computer technology—a brand-new application that (at least according to the advertising hype) will upend life as we know it. For the deaf and hearing-impaired of the world, the Live Transcribe app Google rolled out in limited beta on Monday, February the 4th, certainly seems to be just such an earth-shaking new tool.
But is it really…?Read More
The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. is easily the largest library in the entire world. It has over 167 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves. If you walked for ten hours a day, it’d take you a month to walk past all those bookshelves. Pick even one category—say, comic books—and it would be impossible to read through the Library of Congress’s entire catalog in one lifetime (they have 120,000 comic books, and growing).
The Library of Congress is clearly a superlative institution, so when they choose to honor an organization at their yearly Literacy Awards, it’s a sign that that organization has made a significant impact in the quest to wipe out global illiteracy…Read More
Did you know that more than half of the world’s population speaks a total of only twenty three languages?
That, coupled with modern technology, means global communication has never been easier. It also means, unfortunately, that those extra-popular languages can turn into something of a cultural tsunami, threatening to drown out the more than seven thousand other languages that are spoken in the world today…Read More
As a specialized area of study, linguistics pretty much never makes global news. But there are times when events that take on global importance have a vital linguistic element to them. Such is the case with the recent tragic death of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal when she was being held in U.S. custody at the border last month.
On a radio segment of FRESH AIR, hosted on NPR by Terry Gross, linguist Geoff Nunberg helped Gross to understand the communication breakdowns that sometimes happen at the border…Read More
The calendar we use is imperfectly matched to the solar year, so there’s a sense in which New Year’s Day is only an illusion—just another day among many, invested with imaginary importance by a system invented at the behest of a sixteenth century Pope trying to get Easter to fall a little closer to the spring equinox.
“Imperfect,” however, is not the same as hopelessly flawed. As annoying as the Gregorian calendar can be for those of us with the misfortune to be born on a leap day, it generally does its job of helping us plan vacations, birthday parties, and—in our case—objectives and resolutions for the New Year…Read More
The Christmas story we are used to is sanitized. The reality was far more complicated—and is still relevant in light of the world we live in today. As we think back on that reality, we remember that Jesus himself was from a peasant family living in a country under the domination of a foreign power. He was the target of a ruthless and violent tyrant and escaped with his life only because his parents fled to Egypt. There they lived as refugees and migrants, waiting for a time to go back home. Later, after growing up in his homeland, Jesus was ultimately killed by yet another oppressive regime.
It is our belief in Jesus that is at the heart of why we do what we do...Read More