On the road

WSA-2Ruth is conducting a children’s program about missions.
Photo courtesy of Wycliffe South Africa.

We’re on the road with Wycliffe South Africa assisting them with one of several events they are doing around South Africa to raise awareness for Bible translation and missions.  Ruth, a volunteer from Germany, is conducting a children’s program for Wycliffe SA that teaches children about missions.  The church we’re visiting now has additionally invited Wycliffe SA to share with their youth, young adults and share in their Sunday morning service.  We’ll be participating in the activities planned with the youth and young adults.

This is a beautiful part of the country with rolling hills, farms, water falls, and quaint shops and restaurants.  In the early 1900s it was home to a Beor concentration camp.  During the Anglo Beor War, Afrikaans (or Afrikaner) women and children were put in these camps by the British.  Even now some people of Afrikaans decent can tell the stories of their relatives that died or were rescued from one of these camps.

This area is also in the South African province that has the highest percentage of reported HIV/AIDS infections.  We’re planning to visit a community near here where the church has a ministry to those affected by this disease.

We’ll be staying with some church members, and along with helping out Wycliffe South Africa, all this is part of our orientation to South Africa.

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Translation Training

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Maik teaching a translation course at NEGST.
Photos by Zeke du Plessis

On university campuses around the world, you can find translation workers and linguists using their experience to train others.  In Nairobi four people have been seconded from our organization to serve the Nairobi Evangelical School of Theology (NEGST) as professors in their Master’s and PhD programs.   These four men are the faculty of the NEGST translation department.

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Steve, Maik, and Andy, meeting together at NEGST. They are all members of the translation department faculty at NEGST.

Most students attending NEGST are from one of the many nations in Africa, but some students also come to NEGST from Asia, Europe and the Americas. Students can choose to study translation on the Master’s or PhD level.  Students graduating with degrees in these programs may choose a career in Bible translation or use this knowledge to enrich another ministry that they pursue.

Translation courses are also part of the Master’s of Divinity program.  One reason for this is to help these students to discern appropriate languages of ministry for the given context where they will or are currently ministering.  For example, what languages will be most effective in communicating the gospel with a given congregation; when should a pastor or evangelist use a trade language like English; when should they use a local language; what translation of the Bible should they use; how can they support translation programs?  In contexts in the US where English is predominant, it’s easy to forget how multilingual much of the rest of the world is and how important choosing the right language can be to effective ministry.

The translation studies program at NEGST is one of the strategies for both casting vision for Bible translation among ministry leaders in Africa and equipping more Africans to be involved in Bible translation work in their mother tongue or another language.   Ministry leaders that value and promote scriptures translated into languages their congregations understand well, can be instrumental in supporting current translation programs or encouraging their congregations to use scriptures already translated into their local languages.  Congregations that are using scriptures translated into a language they understand well will grow deeper in their faith and will be able to more effectively communicate the gospel to others.

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Training course upgrades consultant knowledge

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Photo contributed by Kent Schoeder

NAIROBI, KENYA—Eight language software trainees and consultants from various parts of Africa came to Kenya October 12-30, 2009 to participate in SIL* Africa area’s first Language Software Consultant Training Course taught in English.  The course was led by Kent Schroeder, language software consultant, and Doug Higby, language software coordinator.  It is being planned as an annual event.  Higby has previously taught the course in French to colleagues from French-speaking countries.

In Africa, linguistic computer consultants are few, communications resources are sometimes limited and staff are spread across large geographical distances, sometimes in remote areas.  This course brought consultants and trainees to one place to get the information they needed, so that they can then train linguist, literacy and translation staff in their regions. Participants received training in using and supporting a collection of software programs available to translation, literacy and linguist staff, and discussed strategies for how to most effectively use each program.  Some programs have been upgraded, so participants received the information they needed to smoothly transition themselves and others to newer software tools.  Every participant left the course with an eight-gigabyte flashdrive with all of the language software they need to install and troubleshoot.   They can refresh their knowledge by reviewing regularly updated course materials on-line.

“The consultant training program is not just about the workshop. These eight people have all committed themselves to a consultant development path and our goal is to help them excel in language technology. The course instructors are available to the students at any moment via email, Skype, and user groups,” said Higby.

Linguistic computing is a critical component of translation and language development projects.   Software programs help linguists and Bible translators store, sort, compare, and analyze data and then prepare it for publication.  This helps linguists focus their efforts on less tedious and repetitive tasks, and it can take years off of the total time of a Bible translation program.  SIL’s linguistic computing staff have developed more than 60 pieces of linguistics related software, and they continue to develop more.

In Wycliffe linguistic computing is part of the information technology domain.  Wycliffe needs more individuals with IT skills to serve in open positions available around the world.   See what kinds of jobs are available.

*SIL International is an affiliate organization of Wycliffe.

Read more about this course.

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Off-road Driving


Some of the people in this neighborhood warned us of the condition of this road and suggested that we take an alternate route. However, it was perfect for four-wheel drive practice. Ruts, mud and large puddles. Today, we drove through all of those–in a large stick-shift land cruiser! Oh yes, and the driver in these cars sits on the right side. We both know how to drive standard, but I wasn’t sure if my left hand would be obedient in shifting gears. Thankfully, it was :).

Off-road driving skills aren’t just for sport in east Africa. It’s an important skill that we’ll use even in the city of Nairobi. While the main roads are paved, many side streets aren’t; and outside the city even fewer roads are paved. It was really fun and challenging, but I can see how long trips on roads like this would be exhausting.

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Village Visit

We went to a village just outside of Dar today and prepared and ate a feast of local food. We helped:

  • prepare the coconuts
  • pick and prepare greens
  • chop wood for the cooking fire
  • draw water from a boar hole
  • cut up meat and vegetables
  • pick out rocks from the rice
  • and stir the cooking food

It was a fun experience in village life. Our reward at the end was a huge plate of Tanzanian food.

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