You can take courses at SIL-UND to prepare for field service as a linguist, translator, literacy specialist, language surveyor, or signed language specialist. Or, you can use them to learn how to learn a language to prepare for many other cross-cultural roles.

This page can help you figure out how to organize your training. It’s built around various possible roles with SIL International. Other organizations have similar roles, but every organization has its own expectations (and they sometimes change without us finding out about them), so you should contact the organization you are interested in directly for advice about what to take when. Still, this page can help give you a general idea how the different courses fit together.

  • Linguists and translators
  • This is our primary track. If you’re interested in field service with SIL or similar organizations as a linguist or translator, this is the one for you.
  • Language learning—for many different cross-cultural roles
  • Maybe you want to work in another language community but your primary purpose is not linguistics, literacy or translation—you might want to be a missionary, anthropologist, community development worker, educator, diplomat or business person. A modification of Package A (Language and Linguistics) provides great preparation for learning how to learn a new language.
  • Literacy specialists
  • Literacy specialists work in local language communities to help set up literacy programs—sometimes the first time reading is introduced to the society. If you want to do that with SIL, plan to take (at a minimum) two summers of courses, one of general linguistics and one consisting of the Literacy Megacourse.
  • Language surveyors
  • Language survey is an exciting and interesting way to serve. It involves lots of travel and meeting new people and cultures. The goal? To find out which groups of people speak the same language, as a first step toward developing them.
  • Signed language specialists
  • Do you want to work with signed languages? Much of the training is the same as for working with spoken languages, but some of it is different. So, we have a modification of our usual packages for you. (We don’t teach you to sign; we assume you can learn a sign language elsewhere. We take you the next step, to prepare you to support Deaf communities around the world who want to develop their sign language.)

If you have questions about how to customize your training for your particular situation, please write to the SIL-UND Director.

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