Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) was the knowledge partner at the 11th International Language and Development Conference hosted by the British Council in New Delhi from November 18 to 20, 2015. The theme for this year’s conference was “Multilinguism and Development”’ and India was considered the perfect country to host this conference as it is one of the most multilingual countries in the world with two official languages, 22 scheduled languages and more than 700 languages used across the country by some region, community or tribe. The session led by DEF founder-director Osama Manzar discussed the role of digital media in preserving languages and highlighted the importance of oral knowledge of a language over its written form. The session was much appreciated and showed optimism in a country where knowledge of English is equated with higher socio-economic status.

While India’s multilingual diversity is a matter of great pride and deserves celebration, it has also been a cause of concern when it comes to co-habitation among people of different states and equality of access to services.

The prestigious event was organized in collaboration with the conference board of trustees, and supported by the Ministry of Rural Development of the government of India, the National Multilingual Resource Consortium (NMRC) of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Research Councils UK and DEF as knowledge partner.

Multilinguism is not just a challenge for India but also for many other countries across the globe that have struggled to retain linguistic identities while adopting aspirational languages, especially English, for development and economic growth.

The 11th Language and Development Conference, held at The Lalit Hotel, New Delhi, revolved around such issues as each speaker explored the matter in depth. With participation from over 30 countries, this year’s conference turned out to be one of the most well represented conferences with about 70 sessions, each as rich in content as the other.

Participants discussed several issues such as the problems of a multilingual society, death of minority languages, role of social media in preserving minority languages, the promise of English, language policy in classrooms, rural empowerment through English, solutions for bilingual/multilingual countries, role of government in the preservation or death of a language, and the role of mother tongue in early learning years, among others.

The plenary sessions were led by Founder-Director of JNU’s NMRC Ajit Mohanty, Professor in Humanities and Medicine at Aalborg University in Denmark  Srikant Sarangi, DEF Founder-Director Osama Manzar, Professor in the University of Oslo Birgit Brock-Utne, Senior Lecturer in Language Education in the University of Leeds James Simpson, and Director of ASER Centre at Pratham Rukmini Banerjee. Overall, the conference was well curated, the content was extremely rich and the discussions were in depth, thus, giving the audience a holistic understanding of the role of language in a nation’s development.

The conference takes place every two years, and brings together professionals who share an interest in the roles that languages play in development. The conferences  address issues of world, national, second and minority languages in relation to human, social, cultural and economic development. Details of the conference are available at

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