Language documentation workshop in Indonesia

(March 2010) Instructors from SIL are conducting a workshop in Jakarta, Indonesia during the month of March. There are approximately twenty-one participants in the "Fundamentals of Oral Language Documentation" workshop hosted by Atma Jaya University. After orientation to basic language documentation methods, participants will complete a simulation documentary corpus.

Leaders for the workshop are SIL instructors Will Reiman and Brendon Yoder. Each day, ninety-minute lectures are followed by hands-on practice with the tools that create, manage and store media. As a media intensive endeavor, training for language documentation requires a large amount of hands-on work.

Language documentation focuses on making an archival record of the language in use (primary data), while language description focuses on analyzing how a language works (secondary data).

Workshop goals for the participants

  • To articulate what language documentation is and why it matters
  • To articulate the elements of a good recording
  • To demonstrate and articulate sensible methodologies for recording in the field
  • To choose the appropriate equipment and settings to use for a given recording situation
  • To intelligently discuss and contribute to designs of program planning, corpus planning, informed consent for language documentation, indigenous community integration, planning and review


Language documentation ensures that some record of the language is preserved if all speakers of a language die without passing it on to another generation. There are 722 languages spoken in Indonesia, according to the Ethnologue, which lists all of the world’s 6,909 known living languages. Many languages in Indonesia belong to the Austronesian family, which boasts more than one thousand languages, from Madagascar in the west to Easter Island in the east.

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