SIL Summer Institute Of Linguistics

SIL - Summer Institute Of Linguistics

From time to time the Frequenlty Asked Questions (FAQ's) section of this website gets questions about various organisations in PNG. SIL is one of those places that desereve more than just a single sentence or paragraph in the FAQ's.

Who Is SIL?

The letters "SIL" stand for the Summer Institute of Linguistics. They are also known in Tok Pisin as the "Institut bilong Tok Ples." SIL is an organisation of volunteers from about 15 different countries around the world and Papua New Guinean co-workers. Since they began work in Papua New Guinea in 1956, they have worked in over 285 languages and are currently working in more than 180. They work under formal agreement with the national government, through the National Department of Education. They also work closely with provincial governments and non-government organisations.

What Does SIL Do?

SIL is involved in linguistics, literacy and translation and is focused on village communities. Our main goal is to translate and publish Scripture. This usually includes the New Testament and often parts of the Old Testament as well.

With the consent and cooperation of the local people and church leaders, each team of translators chooses a language and village in which to live. Teams on the average live in these villages for up to 15 years, not including leave time, doing language work. They seek to cooperate with, and involve, all the Christian denominations and organisations in the language area that have similar goals.

While translation is their main goal, there are many things they need to do to make translation meaningful. They want to:

  • Understand and write about the local culture.
  • Develop an alphabet and explain how each language is written.
  • Study each language carefully and share this information with the educational agencies in PNG.
  • Help encourage people to read and write their language.
  • Help to translate educational and general information that is put out by the government departments.

The published results of their linguistic work are donated to the National Library and the Michael Somare Library at the University of Papua New Guinea.

SIL members also work directly with government agencies. Members have worked, and are working, with several provincial governments. Their work has been primarily in areas related to literacy.

For several years, they have also had people working with the National Department of Education in Port Moresby. These people have been working in Curriculum Development. As a result, SIL has been requested to assist in developing curriculum for "tok ples" elementary education throughout the country.


SIL is committed to training Papua New Guineans. PNG government policies put a lot of importance on the development of village communities and of local languages. Those in SIL want to help in this process by training people in literacy and translation. They teach people to read and write in their own languages and also teach teachers and train trainers. They train people to translate different types of material including literacy materials for use in the elementary schools. There are hundreds of Papua New Guineans working with SIL in these roles, many of whom are members of the PNG Bible Translation Association (BTA).

SIL also helps to train students in teachers' colleges and other national training institutions.

They train Papua New Guineans in SIL support departments, equipping them for employment within SIL or elsewhere. The training also gives them extra skills which will prepare them for self-employment after their time with SIL. They employ over 200 Papua New Guineans in many different types of roles.

Centre Services

SIL has centres at Alotau, Kokopo, Lae, Madang, Port Moresby, Ukarumpa and Wewak. These centres provide many different kinds of support for the teams working in villages. Ukarumpa, in the Eastern highlands, is the main centre, and its facilities include:

  • An aviation programme and a team of auto mechanics to help with travel to villages, many of which are in remote areas.
  • Radio facilities to maintain contact with each team.

  • Computer services to help get the job done faster.
  • A construction department to help build and maintain facilities
  • Printing facilities for the production of books and other reading materials.

For further inquiries contact: 
Summer Institute of Linguistics 
PO Box 413 
Ukarumpa, EHP 444 
Papua New Guinea 
ph# +675 737-4431 
fax# +675 737-4111 

Thanks to Carle Gustavison 
Media Director, SIL-PNG
for the above information.


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