"Your Language is the most precious element in life that still includes all major values of your ancestors. What does that mean for your children, and your grandchildren and their future?"
A few months ago I visited Akwaya sub division, a beautiful, but very isolated part of the country. We went there to visit a SIL team that was just assigned to work there. I was struck again by the dedication it takes for anyone to work in an area like that, where walking is the only way to travel around. We met with some church leaders and many of them had taken between 4 and 10 hours to track in, just for that meeting! We talked with them about language development and it was clear to everyone that this also is something that will take time. But everyone, the SIL team and the local people are in it for the long haul.
This long term commitment is characteristic of the approach of SIL. We don’t come in to quickly do something and leave again. We know that language development takes time and commitment. I myself worked for a number of years in the East province, among the Makaa people. We helped set up Mother Tongue education in the schools, a literacy program in the villages and we produced all kind of books for cultural preservation and development. But education and literacy are an ongoing concern. It is not something you do for a year and then leave. It takes an ongoing commitment. Since 1980 we have people working among the Makaa people who show that long term dedication.
In this years Annual Report you will see more examples of that. It is this commitment that has allowed us to be in Cameroon for 40 years now. That is reason for celebration! During that time we worked hard to encourage people to value their language and helped them to use it in written form. As a result the language becomes a more effective tool. Language connects people. It connects them to their culture, but also to each other, to education, to practical and spiritual development. Without the right language, communication breaks down and people will be isolated. SIL has been happy to help people make these connections better. I hope that this report will make these connections clear to you too.
Nelis van den Berg
General Director SIL Cameroon