Books in local languages

Pratham Books publishes books in several Indian languages so as to reach the maximum number of children. A recent edition of ‘The Drum Beat’ features a report about a booklet called ‘Why language matters’. Here’s a slice of that article:

Why Languages Matter: Meeting Millennium Development Goals Through Local Languages
Published in the International Year of Languages (2008) by the organisation SIL International (formerly Summer Institute of Linguistics), “Why Languages Matter” provides readers with stories about how literacy programmes in local languages are intending to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The 16-page brochure also highlights how partnerships can revitalise local languages. According to the brochure: ” Language-based development plays a significant role in giving communities the tools to work out steps to meet these goals. Many of the [economically] poorest people speak mother tongues that are not national or international languages. Poverty, lack of access to primary education, inequality, and disease are daily challenges for them.”

The document poses the following questions:

1. “Can the development of minority languages become key to helping people create their own way of successfully meeting the challenges in their lives?

2. Can writing systems for mother tongues and multilingual education become tools for people to build a better present and a better future?

3. Are the long-term results worth the investment of money and time?”
The document uses examples of local language development to show how “communities are discovering that by using their languages in new arenas of their lives, they can begin discovering solutions to the challenges stated in the MDGs.” The examples include the following:

* Achieve Universal Primary Education – A bilingual primary school teacher in the village of Santa Maria Ocotán, Mexico, taught his students all of their subjects in “Tepehuan, although most of the teaching materials were in Spanish….. Another first grade teacher used only Spanish. At the end of the year, the test scores on the standardized government tests for the students taught in their mother tongue surpassed those for the students taught only in Spanish, even though the tests were in Spanish.”

* Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women – A Quechua-speaking Peruvian, Margarita, studied at night to finish her primary education and beyond, ultimately earning a university degree in psychology. “Using that knowledge and her skills, Margarita founded a volunteer organization that provides social, psychological and educational help to hundreds of displaced and sometimes abused Quechua women and children – using the language they understand best.” For the full article, please go to:



  1. Leonard Fernandes February 7, 2009

    Hi Mala,

    If there is any way we can collaborate in the publication of books in Indian languages, we’d love to. We have already published in 5 languages and are excited about the potential of the regional language market. Our model of print-on-demand allows people to publish in small quantities without worrying too much about market demand.

    Warm Regards,

    Leonard Fernandes

  2. Anonymous February 8, 2009

    Thanks for writing in, Leonard. Print-on-demand is an exciting prospect, and I’ll get in touch with you soon.


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