MacMillan and others have stopped producing printed copies of their dictionaries, switching to online or electronic versions only. The choice was necessitated by the severe decrease in demand, as high school and college students, once their biggest market, no longer pick up these paper books. Such a rapid pace of change! Just two years ago when my son Kevin went to college, we got him the biggest baddest paper dictionary that we could find.
Maybe because of the way I think, I have trouble working in a flat document to put down my creative ideas. They come in a haphazard fashion, and at the moment I'm not sure where they fit into the global structure I'm trying to create. In the past, most of my newsletters, sermon preparations, teaching plans have all taken place on a nice yellow legal pad. But no one else would be able to interpret the end result.
John Nystrom was interviewed recently on FOX news about the book, Sleeping Coconuts, that he and his wife Bonnie authored. The book is about the effects of the July 17,1998 Tsunami on the Papua New Guinea village they had been working in and how they subsequently changed their Bible translation strategy to work in multiple languages at once.
I've never been great with video recording. Sure, we had a camcorder to record those precious moments with our children, but I've never done anything with them yet. When I made a video recording to explain our ministry, it was an agonizing process for me, and that was just a talking head. But we realized that video is the best means for communication in the present, and so I figured that I had better give it another chance.
As a Bible translator, I have typically looked at a dozen different translations of the Bible in addition to the Greek or Hebrew when translating into the Fulfulde language. I have always appreciated the fresh perspective that the New Living Translation gave, and especially the naturalness of the English language that is used to convey the truth of Scripture into modern English. As a result, I have been reading from the NLT for my devotions and for our family devotions for many years. But it wasn't good enough for Scripture memory.
I was privileged to be able to attend DrupalCon last week in Denver. Drupal is a web development platform, the one that this website runs on, and one that I've used on many websites over the past five years or so. I learned Drupal on my own in Africa, with nobody around to swap stories with and get assistance from. Of course, the Internet is very helpful and the Drupal community is amazing, but sometimes that human interaction can make a huge difference.
At least that's what the e-mail message said that was sent out to everyone on my Google contact list. The request for financial help did actually originate from my Gmail box and claimed that my family and I were in Spain, had been mugged, and had everything stolen except for our passports. That last detail, as it turns out, is very important. You see, in order to receive a wire transfer of funds, you have to have some form of identification. Had the passport been stolen as well, it would be impossible to scam my contacts out of their money.
Mobile cellular network
Arriving in Ghana, we were accosted with advertisements for cell phone networks, all claiming to be the fastest and most reliable. There were at least 4 or 5 to choose from. Since we hadn’t gotten any feedback as to which one would be the best for the Northern part of Ghana, I asked a random individual which network he thought would work the best in the North. He hesitated a moment and said, “Tigo”. We really had no idea, but trusted that the Lord inspired him with that answer. We loaded our devices up with 4 SIM cards with a median price of 62 cents each. We loaded two of them with one month’s worth of Internet credit for up to 2.5 Gigabytes of data. Plenty for synchronizing dictionary files and sending out Tweets (see below). When we finally arrived at the workshop location, I was disappointed to discover there was no connectivity. …but wait—Art informed me that he was connecting, and sure enough, a reboot of my phone and I was in business too. It wasn’t the advertised 3.5G speed, or 3, or 2.5, but hey, we are connected and able to do all we need.
Today, I am leaving for Ghana where we hope to facilitate a Rapid Word Collection workshop for the Bulsa people. The primary goals of the workshop are:
- To validate Buli as an official language of Ghana by providing them with the beginning corpus of data for a dictionary.
- To promote the Rapid Word Collection method as the most effective way to collect words in a minority language.
The Buli people are excited to participate and we will see how many words can be collected, glossed, and entered into the computer during a two week workshop with a minimum of 28 participants. While such workshops have been done before, none have had as ambitious a goal: At the end of one month, all the data will be posted on the Internet and accessible to the world. In addition, the Bulsa people will continue to develop and work on the data with the help of computers that will be donated for the purpose.
SIL International has a new academic domain called "Language Technology", and I am serving as the International Coordinator of Language Technology Use. In SIL, there are domains for each discipline that is required in a language development project. You are probably aware that my personal motivation is to see God's Word available in every language of the world. Yet, one does not just go in to an area that has no writing system and start translating the Bible. There are numerous disciplines involved in developing the language and understanding the cultural context.