SIL Peru celebrates 60 years of service

(September 2006) On September 21 SIL will celebrate 60 years of working alongside Peruvians in their efforts of language development for the ethnic minority languages of Peru. The celebration will be held in Magdalena del Mar, Lima. Representatives from the Peruvian government, nongovernmental organizations and educational institutions are expected to attend the event. SIL Executive Director Dr. John Watters will address the gathering.

collage of photos - SIL's 60th anniversary in Peru


















At the invitation of Peru’s government, SIL’s founder Cameron Townsend arrived in Peru in 1946 with seventeen SIL linguists to facilitate language development for the languages of the ethnic communities. Currently about eighty SIL linguists and literacy personnel are actively working in thirty-five different language programs.

SIL linguists have assisted in documenting 68 Peruvian languages in partnership with the Ministry of Education, other government and nongovernmental agencies along with the ethnic minority language communities and national like-minded organizations. SIL has made significant contributions in literacy development and training for bilingual teachers in Peru. SIL Peru supports training programs in linguistics, literacy and translation principles for Spanish speakers as well as for mother tongue speakers.

SIL personnel work with local people to produce vernacular publications covering a wide range of topics including folktale anthologies, community health books, community development and literacy primers and literature. SIL also supports spiritual development through Bible translation efforts for speakers of ethnic minority languages.

SIL’s linguistic library in Peru provides over 3,000 volumes which are available to the Peruvian community. Although the library is not a public library, SIL encourages professors, students, and other researchers from colleges and universities to reference the collections.

SIL Peru has published almost 1,500 documents: phonologies, grammars, dictionaries, literacy and other translated materials in nearly seventy Peruvian languages.  These can be downloaded free of charge.

A map of Peru's language areas is included in the Ethnologue. 

In April of 2004 a ceremony was held at SIL Peru’s Yarinacocha linguistics center to commemorate the donation of the property to the Universidad Nacional Intercultural de la Amazonia (The National Intercultural University of the Amazon). James Roberts, durrent Director of SIL Peru, signed the agreement.

SIL Peru contributions:

  • work began in 1946
  • number of languages with SIL linguistic consultation - 74<
  • numbers of dictionaries- 26
  • number of grammars- 32
  • number of NewTestaments translated - 40
  • publication titles- over 3300
  • titles available on Peru Branch website for free download - over 1400


Awards presented to SIL from the Peruvian Government

  1. May 1953: Lima, Peru. The Peruvian Government awards to the founder of the Summer Institute of Linguistics the decoration of OFFICIAL of the Order of Merit for Distinguished Services.
  2. July 1963: Lima, Peru. The decoration of COMMANDOR of the Order of Merit for Distinguished Services is awarded to Doctor W. C. Townsend by the President of the Republic of Peru.
  3. August 1963: The MAGISTERIAL PALMS of Peru are awarded to Townsend in consideration of services given to Peruvian national education.
  4. July 1966: The Faculty of Education of the Great National University of San Marcos of Lima names Doctor Townsend Doctor Honoris Causa of the University, for his profound work leading the Linguistic Institute.

SIL and Bilingual Education in Peru

  • On November 28, 1952, Peru’s Minister of Education, General Juan Mendoza Rodríguez, at the request of Dr. William Cameron Townsend, established a bilingual education program that would operate in cooperation with SIL.
  • Dr. Martha Hildebrandt was the director of the first bilingual education course in 1953.
  • March 27, 1985 the Instituto Superior Pedagógico Bilingüe was created.
  • In 1987, there were already more than 600 bilingual trainers, who taught more than 15,000 students in 24 languages.
  • In May of 1990, an Aguaruna bilingual teacher, Gerardo Wipio Deicat, was named the first indigenous director of ISPBY (Instituto Superior Pedagógico Bilingüe de Yarinacocha)

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