The good #3: Developing local leaders for language development

by bzephyr

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 meeting the language development needs of the communities. But we also wanted to facilitate our PNG colleagues’ development in these areas 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.

This is the next in a series of posts on the good, the bad, and what I’m doing now to sharpen ugly worn-out tools from 2012. See also here, here, and here.


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 express purpose that they would return to the Aitape West project later in the year and lead 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. 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.

The dictionary workshops were not the only way that we have been developing local leaders within the Aitape West Translation Project. We have communicated to the Aitape West translators that we want to continue facilitating opportunities for them every year to grow in their leadership skills as they are willing and able to serve people from other language communities in the region and the nation.

Last November, four local translators accompanied me to attend a church partnership conference in the larger regional town of Wewak as we prepared for our own conference in Aitape later the following year. Most of our translators attended the Aitape conference in August and contributed by interacting with the district church leaders, leading worship, and speaking out about various issues in the conference.

In June, five local translators traveled with me to our national training center in Ukarumpa and served as training mentors in the Paratext translation software course. The November ’11 and July/August ’12 translation editing workshops for Luke-Acts happened without any expat presence. These workshops involved significant interaction with translation advisors as we communicated remotely over email and Skype. We continue to be grateful for these local partners who take increasing responsibility for various tasks.

This year one of our Arop advisors, Linus, died, and the other two Arop advisors, Emil and Pastor Peter, experienced the death of close family members. This took them away from some of our workshops, but the other translators stepped up and took responsibility for various tasks that always need to be done. Likewise, when out teammate, Beth, returned from furlough, some of the translators took it upon themselves to organize where they were all at with their TEE training (Theological Education by Extension), and before Beth could bring the topic up with them, they presented her with their plan for finishing book 2 and continuing with book 3.

This last year has seen many good things happening in the Aitape West Translation Project.


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