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(July 2008) In recognition of the UN-designated International Year of Languages, the Royal Institute of Thailand organized an international conference on language policy, entitled National Language Policy: Language Diversity and National Unity, 4–5 July in Bangkok, Thailand. The Royal Institute recognizes the unique linguistic challenges and opportunities facing many nations.
Co-sponsoring this event along with the Royal Institute of Thailand are the Australian Embassy in Thailand, UNESCO-Bangkok, UNICEF-Thailand, the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization and SIL International.
"We will discuss issues of interest to many people worldwide, including policy responses to the teaching of international languages, the place of ethnic minority languages in a national language policy, and the importance of translation standards, to name a few. Attendees will have the opportunity to exchange views and experiences with noted language policy experts, including Bernard Spolsky, Joseph LoBianco and David Bradley," commented Dr. Udom Warotamasikkhadit, fellow of the Royal Institute and chair of the organizing committee.
SIL contributed to the conference section dedicated to ethnic minority languages. Dr. Kimmo Kosonen, a multilingual education consultant with SIL delivered a paper entitled "What is multilingual education and how can it benefit learners and societies?" Dr. Kirk R. Person, working with SIL in Asia, moderated a panel discussion on "Ethnic minority languages: An urgent call for action."
Dr. Carolyn Miller, formerly president of SIL, commented on the importance of the conference for ethnolinguistic minority communities, stating that some "languages have official status as national or regional languages, while yet others are used as the beloved mother tongue of diverse ethnolinguistic minority groups. SIL International's passion relates to these smaller languages whose speakers deserve to live with equal dignity as members of the human race."
This conference followed the 2nd International Conference on Language Development, Language Revitalization and Multilingual Education in Ethnolinguistic Communities held 1–3 July 2008 at the same venue. Several of the presenters participated in both conferences.
SIL is involved in language development, mother-tongue-based literacy and multilingual education in numerous countries in Asia as well as worldwide, working in partnership with local, national and international organizations and government agencies. As an international NGO, SIL has been in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations since 1997 and with UNESCO since 1993. Such relationships provide opportunities for SIL to contribute to the global dialog on language development.