Who We Are
The first SIL linguists discovered that the cultures and languages of the jungle were changing rapidly and could be lost completely. They were compelled by their love for others, and had a desire to help them meet their needs and facilitate the means to preserve their culture and language.
From the beginning, the SIL linguists met educational and health needs, by training members of each community to be teachers and health promoters among their people. They established a clinic, air transportation, radio and print shop at the SIL center as a means of providing help and development for the different communities.
In 1953, SIL in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, established a bilingual teacher training course in Yarinacocha for the indigenous people. For more than 60 years, SIL not only worked with the Ministry of Education but also with other government agencies to provide education in the mother tongue to the most isolated villages in Peru.
The work in Peru’s mountains
In 1964, work was begun in the mountains and focused on the linguistic study of the languages in cooperation with government entities and churches. The linguists documented the richness and diversity of the Quechua cultures, while affirming the work of translation and literacy. While working with the Ministry of Education, SIL expanded their literacy projects to associations and churches interested in preserving the languages and cultures of the mountain regions.
SIL linguists coordinate projects with local leaders and offer training which in the future will allow those Quechuas to lead and continue the programs. In recent years, local Quechua organizations have taken on the leadership of translation and literacy projects where SIL personnel serve as consultants.
Goals of SIL
Since the beginning of this work, SIL has focused on three main ends. First, SIL desires that the results of its research and information be available to all who would want it. Second, SIL desires that the linguistic communities of Peru will be able to sustain the development of their culture and preserve their mother tongue. Lastly, SIL is committed to making the Scriptures available to all people in their mother tongue. These goals have guided SIL and have enabled the establishment of working relationships at all levels of Peruvian society.
In almost seven decades of work in Peru, SIL has advanced in many areas. Scientific investigation has been done in more than 70 languages. The New Testament has been translated and published in 45 languages. Hundreds of books have been published: grammars, bilingual dictionaries, anthropological studies and folklore. Many of them are available on this website. Other thousands of books have been published in the vernacular languages for the schools.
Looking to the future
The ethnic groups of Peru are experiencing unprecedented changes. Many of the jungle groups have passed from the stone-age to the use of computers in only two generations. The Quechua cultures are facing similar changes due to economic development which brings rapid change and new opportunities. The challenges they are facing are very different than the ones they faced 70 years ago, and their needs keep changing.
The true impact of SIL’s work will be seen in the future as ethnic groups of Peru face the challenges of intergrating into a world of rapid globalization. These cultures now have the foundation of a written language and history.
SIL never had the intention of a permanent presence in Peru. The vision was to prepare native communities to face the changing world around them, enter the cultural fabric of Peru, and give them the ability to preserve their heritage. The ethnic groups of Peru now have leaders capable of representing their interests and making intelligent decisions about their future.
Our hope is that SIL’s contribution has served to establish a foundation for the preservation of Peru’s cultures and languages.