What we’ve learned: 40 years managing language programs

Language development is best carried out as a participatory process led by members of the local language community.

(April 2017) Are you looking for a coach to help you with your program management practices?  Are you looking for help to coach national colleagues who are managing their own programs? Managing Language Programs: Perspectives, Processes and Practices, a new publication-in-process, addresses the management of language programs.  

Fourteen chapters are available now as an ebook; the six remaining chapters and several appendices are in various stages of draft and will be uploaded in the upcoming weeks. This ebook, Managing Language Programs, is available now for download from Leanpub in these formats: PDF, ePub or Kindle. Purchasers receive all updates free of charge. Leanpub alerts purchasers each time more content is added and updates are made.

One key advantage of publishing it before completion is that readers have the opportunity to add their comments, suggestions, key examples, and yes, even suggestions for edits. This pair of authors really wants feedback from readers.

This book provides valuable information for consultants, facilitators, managers, coordinators, and others working with language development programs to help them understand “managing for results” and how it fits the management of language projects. Authors Thomas Marmor and Eric Bartels have many years of experience in language program management.

Members of multiple language communities from the Misaje area of Cameroon participate in a workshop on foundations of grammar for their languages.  (--photographer: Katrina Boutwell)
(Click Image to Enlarge) 

Marmor served for 30 years in several roles in West Africa and is now an international trainer and consultant in language program management. For 20 years he managed a language development program for a large people group, then for another decade as the director of language programs in the same region. Bartels is part of the adjunct faculty at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics in Dallas, where he teaches the graduate level course on Language Programs Design and Management. Prior to taking up that position he worked as regional director for SIL in both Eastern Europe and in West Africa, and has facilitated training in this topic in a variety of locations in both anglophone and francophone Africa.

Dr. Fraser Bennett, SIL’s Language Program Training Director, recommends this publication as a “compilation of everything we've learned about managing language programs well over the last 40 years.” The book orients and guides program managers, project managers, and key stakeholders in language development programs. The handbook:

  • defines community-based language development,
  • presents a specific results-oriented methodology and tools for managing programs and projects in community-based language development efforts, and
  • offers practical guidance for managers at the project, program, and administrative levels in an organization.


In many ways, this book builds on the philosophy and theory of community-based language development described in Sustaining Language Use: Perspectives on Community-based Language Development (Lewis and Simons 2016)

This present volume adds these points:

  • Language development is best carried out as a participatory process led by members of the local language community.
  • Stakeholders at multiple levels need to be engaged in the process.
  • Agreed upon results are critical for sustainable language development.
  • An effective methodology for planning and managing community-based language development programs incorporates a focus on results.
  • Language development efforts are carried out by programs which are made up of short-term projects.
  • Good organizational structures and program designs improve the probability of success.

Related Links:

Language Program Management

Language Program Management Resources

News article: Sustaining Language Use: Perspectives on Community-Based Language Development