Training Trainers part 2: Dictionary Making in the Aitape West

by mendibpng

Once again, the SPES team in Wewak invited our team to come and take part in a dictionary workshop. We sent translators and literacy workers from the project, along with advisor Jessie Wright, and they all learned to use the WeSay dictionary software that our colleague had developed.  Those who attended the first workshop in April earlier this year ended up training the rest of the team during the month of September on how to create dictionaries!

(above) Participants became excited as they learned things like “what is a verb in my language?” They also learned how things fit together grammatically in their language. Photo by Luke Warrington.

The following is Ben’s writeup for our team:

This last year our team desired to make progress in equipping local literacy teachers and also in using linguistic research to contribute to the quality of translations and to the language development needs of the communities. But we also wanted to facilitate our PNG colleagues to develop in this area rather than simply allow outsiders to do this for the local team. So dictionaries were begun this year in order to accomplish these multiple purposes. In the past, mother tongue translators have met separately from local literacy teachers at different workshops. This year, however, we sent a handful of translators and literacy teachers to a regional dictionary workshop with the expressed purpose that they would return to the Aitape West project later in the year and hold a similar workshop for all the others. So in April, four translators and three literacy teachers from four different languages attended the regional workshop in Wewak.

photo by Luke Warrington

In September, these seven led the workshop for local literacy teachers from nine languages. They taught about basic computing and typing, making dictionaries, parts of speech, the WeSay dictionary software, and what to do with such complicated things as bound verb roots. As the more experienced users of their written languages, all the translators also attended and served as mentors even while growing in their own knowledge and skills. With our recent acquisition of more bunk beds and mattresses, we were able to accommodate more people at a single workshop than ever before as the translators and literacy teachers worked together as part of a single team in this translation project. We view the equipping of this larger team not only as a means to more holistic language development, but also as a key ingredient to local ownership of the translation task and to facilitating Scripture use among the communities. Plans are underway for this next year to continue this dictionary development and to involve the larger team in the translation task and in Scripture use.


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