Thursday, April 7, 2011

Language and Literacy

Although I'm generally not one to use this blog as a vehicle for promotion this is one occasion where there's something worth sharing with you.

A lot of the work I do for my research is language documentation - I listen to the language, I work with people and I write it down and try and explain how it works. But there's a whole other branch of working with people and language and that involves teaching them to be literate in their own language.

In the Western world so many of us take our literacy for granted, but in places like Nepal education for the masses is a rather recent idea and people are taught in Nepali, which is generally their second, or even third language.

The folk at the Language Documentation Centre (LDC) in Nepal are one of the few NGOs in the country trying to help people gain literacy in their own language. This has many flow-on benefits. Learning to read and write in your own language makes those skills easier to transfer to a second language (eg Nepali), it empowers people who thought their language was of little use/interest as it wasn't written down and it allows people to do those things we take for granted, like writing an inventory of stock in your shop or write letters.

This month, the LDC are trying to raise money to help female literacy in Nepal. Four thousand US dollars is enough money to help almost 500 women gain literacy. You can read more about their project and donate here. These guys are a really small NGO - they have about 3 full time staff and I can promise that none of the money you donate gets skimmed off to pay for glossy advertising or luxury cars.

Having seen firsthand the reality of life as an uneducated woman in Nepal I could give you endless reasons to give money. I know I sound like a cheesy celebrity ambassador but this is one way you can make a real difference.

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