SIL’s Vision Statement is ‘Papua New Guinea: Empowered through the Written Word.’
The PNG branch of SIL was established by an Act of Parliament enacted in 1957 and has been working under a Memorandum of Understanding between SIL and the Department of Education since 1988. SIL volunteers provide not only linguistic research and language development through Bible translation, but SIL teams endeavour to engage in a holistic ministry - addressing health and literacy, nutrition and community development needs in the rural sector of PNG. A majority of the population is located outside of the urban setting and cannot access much of the printed material that is available concerning these issues because they speak only their local language and not English or Tok Pisin. SIL desires to provide local access to this vital information and to provide it in the languages of the people.
SIL translation and literacy teams can invest as much as 20+ years living in a remote language community, learning the language and culture, identifying gifted and interested PNG co-workers to train in translation and literacy work as well as Scripture Use activities. Each year these volunteers have provided over 600,000 hours of training to local citizens, equipping them to read and write, to gain skills in translation, to become teachers in the local vernacular prep schools, to prepare reading and teaching materials, Scripture Use materials for use in the home and in the local church – training that not only provides skills, but improves the quality of life of the local citizens..
In addition to work in individual or cluster language programmes, SIL actively seeks to equip PNG citizens with the skills and experience to move ahead in translation and literacy in their own or neighbouring language communities.
PNGBTA: In the 1980’s, SIL translators in PNG, worked closely with a dedicated group of PNG men and women who wanted to be involved in Bible translation in PNG. Through mentoring and encouragement, the PNG Bible Translation Association was formed. Today it has its headquarters in Pt. Moresby, with regional offices in Alotau, Madang and Wewak. SIL’s role has changed from one of teacher and mentor, to that of partner with these dedicated men and women. As a partner, SIL continues to provide BTA members with training in translation and Biblical studies, as well as literacy principles and teacher training.
NEW IRELAND TRANSLATION INSTITUTE (NITI)
At the New Ireland Translation Institute, several times each year, SIL translators travel to New Ireland to lead continuing training sessions, equipping PNG men and women from over 14 languages to do translation work in their own languages.
VERNACULAR IN TRANSLATION AND LITERACY (VITAL)
Three times each year, locally appointed language speakers travel to the training centre near Alotau and work on translation of Scripture, led by SIL consultants and mentors as well as experienced PNG mentors. Each month-long session is an in-depth hands-on experience of guided translation. After each session, the participants return to their language communities to check the portions they have translated – gathering community input and approval.
SUPERVISOR’S TOK PLES EDUCATION PROGRAMME (STEP)
Since its inception in the early 1990’s, SIL literacy specialists and consultants have staffed the STEP course, providing in-depth training in vernacular material production, curriculum development, teacher training, finance management and literacy programme supervision to PNG men and women appointed by their local communities. The course consists of (5) 4-week modules over a 2 year period. After each module, participants take what they have learned back to their local community to put it into practice and evaluate how much they have learned and what they need to improve on. The STEP graduates return to their local communities to train other teachers, developing and maintaining a local literacy programme. Children who have completed the local vernacular education have gone on to be successful in the government school programme.
BUKA TRAINING CENTRE
SIL has provided training for PNG citizens in translation and Biblical studies at its Ukarumpa training centre since the late 1980’s. Courses have been held occasionally in other regions of PNG, but the Buka Training Centre has become a hub of continuous training for PNG translators and literacy personnel.
INVOLVEMENT IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR:
HIV/AIDS AWARENESS: Of recent note is the assistance SIL has been to the AIDS Council in providing ongoing translation of HIV/AIDS Awareness materials, both written and video, into the local languages of PNG. SIL personnel conduct HIV/AIDS Awareness seminars in local communities, churches and schools. Also, SIL medical personnel are asked to lead an HIV/AIDS Awareness session even in non-health related courses, such as Translator’s Training Course, or Strengthening Tok Ples Education in PNG.
OTHER SOCIAL CONCERNS: A major threat to family and community life and stability is the growing concern over the sale and use of marijuana. SIL translators have produced helpful booklets clearly outlining the problems caused to PNG by the use of marijuana.
Department of Education:
During the history of SIL’s partnership with the Department of Education, SIL consultants have provided mentoring and assistance in vernacular curriculum development for the PNG school system, specifically within the Elementary Education system, but also with regards to bridging into English from the Elementary system into the Primary Education system.
SIL translation and literacy personnel have worked in Bible translation and literacy in over 350 language communities since 1956. Such language work necessitates the development of a workable alphabet. In response to a government request in 1999, SIL consultants assisted an additional 100+ local communities in the development of a trial alphabet, using a method developed by SIL consultants that enables local language speakers to design their own writing systems with the guidance of a trained orthography technician. Orthotech training has been made available to not only SIL language personnel, but also PNG citizens so that they can assist neighbouring language communities in the development of an alphabet where one does not yet exist. The Curriculum Development and Assessment Division, DOE, has asked SIL to help them develop a training track for their own orthography consultants so that these PNG consultants can assist local communities with this development, where there is yet to be an alphabet. The first workshop in that training track is to take place in September 2010.
Tertiary Level Involvement:
SIL is in dialog with the University of Papua New Guinea, University of Goroka and Divine Word University to determine in what way SIL can work alongside these institutions to join our SIL consultants and SIL’s years of experience in vernacular education, vernacular materials production and teacher training with their staff and course curriculum to benefit teacher education in PNG. We look forward to providing what resources we can in these crucial areas.
To support the work SIL is engaged in country-wide, the organization has developed a base of operations in the Highlands of PNG where other SIL volunteers and hundreds of PNG employees provide the services needed to maintain over 180 language projects.
Papua New Guinea has a population of over 6 million people. Of the over 850 languages 78% are Papuan and 20% are Melanesian. The National languages are Hiri Motu, Tok Pisin and English. There are 600 islands.
To date SIL with its partner organisation, Bible Translation Association (BTA) have engaged in over 300 languages.
For more information on SIL in PNG see our web site. http://www.pnglanguages.org/pacific/png/index.asp