Organization - Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL)

Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL)
Basic Information
English Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL)
Local language
Country Philippines
Category International Organization
Domain Oral Traditions and Expressions
Social Practices, Rituals and Festive Events
Function Research
Established year 1953 (Philippines) / 1934 (International)

SIL serves language communities worldwide, building their capacity for sustainable language development, by means of research, translation, training and materials development.


SIL International® is a faith-based nonprofit organization committed to serving language communities worldwide as they develop the skills and capacity necessary to preserve and revitalize their languages. As an international nongovernmental organization (INGO), SIL actively participates in networks and partnerships—with government organizations, local groups and other INGOs—which are vital to the support of minority language communities in their own language development efforts.

Growing out of one man’s concern for people who spoke languages lacking written alphabets, SIL was started by W. Cameron Townsend in 1934 as a small summer linguistics training program. It has expanded to an organization of more than 4,400 people from over 86 countries. SIL has conducted linguistic analysis in more than 2,590 languages spoken by 1.7 billion people in nearly 100 countries. SIL makes its services available to all without regard to religious belief, political ideology, gender, race or ethnic background.

Language research and documentation are core contributions SIL makes to the world’s understanding of languages, and these areas of study involve more than 80 full-time language assessment specialists. As a leader in research of the world’s languages, SIL has surveyed over 2,500 languages, contributing unique and significant data to the Ethnologue: Languages of the World™, a reference volume cataloging the world’s known living languages.

Approximately 3,000 languages still need assessment. Grants from private corporations, foundations and government agencies assist SIL in its literacy and other related projects. Resources are also provided by affiliated organizations in various parts of the world. Major contributors include member organizations of Wycliffe International which promote the translation of Christian Scriptures into the world’s languages where appropriate.

Major Activities


Working in partnership with government agencies, the academic community, and indigenous language communities, SIL linguists assist in the documentation and description of Philippine languages and the development of resources in those languages. The results of research on Philippine languages, by SIL linguists and others, are summarized in the Ethnologue, which provides the most complete listing available of Philippine languages.

Linguistic Research and Training

Since 1953, SIL has conducted at least preliminary research in over 90 Philippine languages, and helped train linguists, language researchers, language associates, translators and teachers through formal and nonformal means. SIL actively participates in the Linguistic Society of the Philippines and assists in staffing Applied Linguistics Programs.


Literacy continues to be a part of the work of the Summer Institute of Linguistics internationally and in the Philippines. SIL is pleased to be involved in literacy activities which touch the lives of adults, young people and children. Although the Philippines has a basic literacy rate of more than 88.5%, pockets of illiteracy remain. According to the Department of Education, there are more than 1 million pre-literates in the country and more than 6 million people are deemed to be functionally illiterate. Many of these are found among the indigenous cultural communities where SIL works in association with the Philippines Department of Education.

Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education

The languages of instruction and literacy in Philippine schools are foreign and incomprehensible to more than 70% of Philippine students. This is a phenomenon common to many other countries in Asia as well, and throughout the world. This situation predetermines that minority language students are unable to understand the content of teaching at school. However, this situation does not have to be…

Using the language the child understands – the child’s first language, or mother tongue –for teaching lesson content in the first 6 years of school, not only enables the child to immediately master curriculum content, but in the process, it affirms the value of the child and her/his cultural and language heritage. Additionally, because Filipino and English are taught as subjects, learning skills that are built using the child’s mother tongue are easily applied to the acquisition of Filipino and English.


SIL translators work in partnership with native speakers in their local communities. This partnership with vernacular speakers has resulted in the production of various types of vernacular and bilingual literature. The production of bilingual material may mean translation from the vernacular to a language of wider communication or vice versa. These materials range from small booklets to a full bilingual dictionary or complete book.


Contact Information (Organization)
Address 12 Big Horseshoe, Horseshoe Village, Quezon City
Tel +63 +2 722 6186

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