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The SIL program at the University of North Dakota is a close-knit community of learners that seeks to integrate academic scholarship with preparation for service to language communities throughout the world. It offers a program which equips students for successful cross-cultural language learning and for further work in linguistics and related fields. It has been making linguistic theory practical and fun since 1952.
The SIL-UND program is offered only during the summer, allowing students to pursue their other studies or occupations during the rest of the year. The nine-week session is challenging, but manageable.
Students may apply many courses taken at SIL-UND to a master's degree in linguistics or a certificate in community-based literacy through UND's School of Graduate Studies. Undergraduate students may use SIL courses as part of a minor in linguistics. Or, students may transfer courses to undergraduate or graduate programs elsewhere.
Special programs include the Literacy Megacourse for training in international literacy work (with the option of earning a graduate Certificate in Community-Based Literacy), and courses in the linguistics of signed languages.
The faculty of the SIL program at UND are active scholars with many years of real-world experience. A core of faculty teaches yearly or on a regular basis, others are invited to teach for a specific course or year. The faculty includes linguists with extensive experience all over the world: Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Pacific.
Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It is concerned with how all languages are alike and how they are differ from each other—the way words are formed, what they mean, how they are combined to form sentences and whole discourses, how people learn languages, and how they use language in relationships with each other. It includes both spoken and signed languages, and unwritten languages as well as those with an established writing system. For a linguist, the intensive study of a language with only a few hundred speakers or signers is no less important than that of a language used by millions. All provide crucial insights into this unique and fascinating human capacity.
For example, our course in learner-directed second language acquisition helps you move beyond normal limitations and make steady progress towards bilingualism, especially if you have to learn a language on your own, outside of a traditional classroom. It provides theory that you immediately apply in daily interaction with a speaker of another language. (Check out this video on YouTube.) You'll be surprised at how much you can learn in just nine weeks!
SIL-UND strives to integrate linguistic theory with the practical tasks of learning and describing languages in many different field situations around the world. This provides a strong background for those who are interested in learning about the wonder of human language and for those interested in expanding their world. SIL-UND students often go on to careers as linguists, anthropologists, teachers, Christian workers, community-development workers and translators, especially in other countries.
A special feature at SIL-UND is that we cover signed languages too, not just spoken languages. There are special courses on signed languages, and most general linguistics courses include coverage of signed languages, sometimes to a substantial degree. Most summers, Deaf people are involved as students and staff, and approximately 15-20% of our community knows some sign language. ASL-English interpreters are provided whenever needed for classes, faculty-student appointments, colloquia, parties, etc.
Whatever your major, whatever your goals, you need language. Understanding it better can enhance your college studies, your career — and your whole life.
Most students and faculty choose to live together in the SIL residence hall and eat together in a group dining room. This provides in-depth informal interaction between students and faculty with rich experience in many countries. This close community and family atmosphere—where teachers, students and their families become friends—and the real-life learning that comes from it, is the most valuable part of the SIL-UND experience. You won't find anything like it elsewhere.
Opportunities are also provided for recreation and spiritual growth, including sports, weekend trips, parties, and optional daily chapel services.
Students living in the SIL residence hall help keep costs low by contributing an hour's work each day to the program.
Children live in rooms next to their parents, play with each other and build healthy relationships with many adults. Most children participate in an on-site child care program administered by SIL, similar to a summer day camp.
“The atmosphere is extremely friendly, the people care about each other a lot and aren't afraid to laugh with you. I've become friendly with a number of my classmates and also with people outside of class. I appreciate the children. They are secure enough here to 'adopt' other adults. That's great.”
Costs are kept low to encourage people to attend from developing countries, or to help people prepare for careers in those countries without accumulating debt. A person can receive ten semester hours of college credit, plus housing and meals for nine weeks, for about $3000-3400.
What degrees are available?
Many students come just for a summer or two of classes, without enrolling in a degree program. But, for those who want a degree from UND, there are three choices.
The SIL-UND program offers an M.A. in Linguistics and a graduate Certificate in Community-Based Literacy as Applied Linguistics through the School of Graduate Studies at the University of North Dakota. M.A. students typically complete the M.A. in 3-4 summers; the literacy certificate can be completed in one summer.
The M.A. requires a thesis, usually based on data that students have collected themselves. In recent years, theses have focused on such diverse languages as Bora (Colombia), Afghan Sign Language (Afghanistan), Fur (Sudan), Indus Kohistani (Pakistan), Me'paa (Mexico), Rakhine and Marma (Bangladesh), and Sarikoli (China).
Some students who have completed the M.A. program have gone on to Ph.D. programs at other schools. Many have gone overseas to act as consultants for linguists in field programs. Others have used their degrees to support careers in teaching or interpreting.
There is also an undergraduate minor which allows students pursuing a B.A. at UND to include linguistics in their degree program.
The teachers at SIL-UND have wide-ranging experience from all over the world, with advanced degrees in linguistics or related fields. They (and all the staff) are deeply interested in the lives of their students and work hard to help them succeed.
They are active scholars, proud of their tradition of innovative application of linguistic theory to teaching and to fieldwork. Textbooks and curricula developed for courses at SIL-UND have been adopted at other SIL programs and other universities.
Many faculty are members of SIL International, an organization which works with minority languages in over 40 countries, but other organizations are also represented. The faculty of SIL-UND includes linguists who are active in the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Pacific during most of the year. A core of them returns every summer; others spend longer periods overseas before returning to teach.
“Every day was chock full of new ideas and activities. Never a dull moment! I appreciated the swiftness with which we received feedback on assignments, and the esprit de corps, the commitment of the teachers.”
Students at each session have a variety of motives for coming. Some are undergraduates who are interested in a thorough introduction to linguistics, perhaps for a career in translation or literacy. Some are planning to go overseas and learn a language that is very different from European languages, working in service with its speakers to improve their linguistic and educational situation; the majority of these students are considering a career in Bible translation. Some are teachers of English or foreign languages, interested in linguistics as a means of gaining a new perspective on their specialty. Some plan to go on to doctoral work in linguistics. Some know they love languages and linguistics; others want to find out.
Practically anywhere in the world! The linguistics program at North Dakota is international in scope. In recent years, participants have come from places such as Sweden, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Korea, Japan, Kenya, Brazil, Paraguay, Peru, Panama, Jamaica, Mexico and Canada, and go on to places just as diverse. Classes discuss a wide range of languages from all around the world, both spoken and signed, including many that are not well known outside of their home country. In the M.A. program, students are encouraged and enabled to conduct field research in other countries under the direction of one of the faculty members.
The University of North Dakota is a major university with a beautiful, stately, and friendly campus. You will feel welcome by the UND community, as we have for over 65 years, starting with an invitation from UND to SIL in the early 1950s.
Grand Forks is a small city of 50,000 located near the geographic center of North America. The typical high temperatures for June and July are in the 70s and 80s. The setting is excellent for a summer of intense study. Students appreciate the safe, quiet atmosphere of the town and the convenient living situation on a peaceful campus. For weekend trips away, students often visit cosmopolitan Winnipeg (Canada) or camp in one of many state parks in North Dakota and northern Minnesota.
Ready to learn more?
Check out the links on the left for full details!