Category Archives: News

Christmas & New Year Update 2017-8

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Sorry about the delay. I was about to send this out the week before Christmas but then — along with half of Jos — I got a bad cold that I’ve only just thrown off, which wiped me out. David.

A visit to Ashe land

On a Monday in the middle of December, I (David) travelled about 3 hours out to the Ashe Bible Translation office in a small town called Kurmin Jibrin which is past Kagoro and on the way to Abuja. (Many of our colleagues know it as Banana Junction, because there are always ladies with trays of bananas on their heads waiting to sell them to passing travellers.)

Apart from overseeing some adjustments to doors and locks for our colleague Kathleen, the main thing I went there for was to join her and the translators as they work their way through studying some natural Ashe stories. Patiently and methodically, Kathleen is leading the translators on a journey of discovery about how their language fits together.

Studying Ashe tales

As they start this work, they are using a true story told by Gideon — one of the translators — about an incident that happened about a year ago when a python attacked a flock of sheep near his village. It was recorded originally in the Ashe language, then transcribed using software called SayMore and given a rough translation into English to help outsiders understand the story. Kathleen helped direct them to divide the  story up into clauses. Then the translators identified actions/descriptions and participants: who is doing what, and who gets affected by the actions. Then clause by clause the translators took turns to see how all these ingredients fitted together.

Some of the most significant learning moments come when the translators realise they can’t quite explain why a certain word should have been used, but in some ways it makes it ‘sweeter’ that way. These are the expressions that don’t immediately match up with English, but which may be vital for making a story clear and interesting. They help the hearer follow with ease rather than getting hopelessly confused. But these vital expressions and patterns are in grave danger of being overlooked or clumsily abused when translating something from another language, simply because they are just the kind of thing that varies considerably from one language to another.

Once we have learned a little from some Ashe language texts we’ll have a fresh look at Luke’s gospel which we have already translated and checked as thoroughly as we could. While we did our best to check all the right ingredients were there for the translation, I knew that without serious study of how stories are told by Ashe people, we wouldn’t be able to check these ingredients were being mixed together properly. We’ll let you know how things work out.

L-R: Gideon, Kathleen, Moses and Arams huddle round a desk in the Ashe translation office to study an Ashe story

New story books

Talking of story-telling, Julie’s become quite aware that there’s a lack of (interesting) reading materials for Nigerian children, whether in English, Hausa or local languages. And while we’ve got quite a library of books for various ages of children, most of them are somewhat western in their setting. Even if such books are interesting enough, we’d really like to help children (and adults) enjoy learning through reading without the implication that everywhere should become Western or that the only good stories are Western ones. So Julie has had an idea to try to make some nice books of stories which actually come from a recognisable Nigerian setting — like the python and the sheep. We’re hoping we get time to organise that and find some illustrators who can make them engaging and recognisable. I’m hoping that our work on studying the structure of the stories will actually enable us to make more interesting translations of the stories into English. Otherwise translations tend to end up rather stodgy and boring, or else run the risk of distorting the stories and missing the point.

Family news

Just before Christmas Julie’s grandfather Eddie was hospitalised and very seriously ill so much so that we were trying to work out whether Julie should travel back — not easy around Christmas — but in a great answer to many prayers he has against all hope recovered surprisingly well. It’s hard being far from family at such times.

Packages keep coming

Quite a few presents arrived in time for Christmas, from friends, family and churches in  the UK, so we felt very loved. Some more have trickled through afterwards too. We enjoyed having several friends staying with us around Christmas, and we even had a Boxing Day cricket match, joined with a bunch of Indian   friends. Then just before New Year we were sad to say goodbye to the Mort family who have been staying on our compound for the last 5 months. They’re going back to their village location a long day’s drive away West and we’ll all miss them.

Boxing day dinner with Creighton and Mort families and James MacDonell

Sisters Sarah and Blessing who work in our house sadly lost a relative over Christmas. Blessing is expecting number 2 and has been on bed rest for quite a while — much to her frustration — but Julie’s looking forward to Sarah coming back to work this week after the Christmas break.

Julie restarted home school this week, with Rebekah, Elizabeth and Abigail genuinely champing at the bit for it. Do pray for Julie as she gets everything organised.

Many thanks for your prayers and support as we serve in Nigeria. Love from us all,

David, Julie,
Rebekah, Elizabeth, Abigail & Helen

ps. This newsletter has been delayed so long that I actually went off to Banana Junction again last Monday (8th) for a couple more days of work on the Ashe stories. Possibly next week they will start comparing the Ashe translation of Luke’s gospel to what they’ve discovered about the language of their stories.

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Languages of Wider Confusion: Cameliously?

Looking through a thesis for a friend at Kagoro seminary I was stumped by one particular word: ‘cameliously’. The context? “The instrument used in this research was carefully, cameliously designed…” Are you any the wiser? I wasn’t and I consulted various dictionaries and asked friends. No-one had ever heard of the word. Various possibilities were suggested including things to do with chameleons. That seemed unlikely since the word didn’t really look like that. Finally I gave up and asked the student directly. Grinning, Ezekiel confessed he had actually made it up and intended it to be ‘like a chameleon’.

But what would ‘cameliously’ (or ‘chameleonly’) mean? Continue reading Languages of Wider Confusion: Cameliously?

Languages of Wider Confusion: Of Step Mothers and Aunts

One of the Koro Ashɛ translators sadly just heard he lost his step-mother. I offered my condolences and I really should know better by now than to do this, but I asked somewhat crassly when she had become his step-mother. At that point he looked confused. But of course, I’d asked a silly question. I was thinking that perhaps his mother had died and his father remarried, but no, I was quite off-beam. This was his father’s immediate brother’s wife. All the wives of his uncles are called in Ashɛ-style English ‘step-mothers’, as are co-wives in polygamous households. I guess I would say ‘aunt’ but I get the impression that the relationships just work differently and a paternal aunt by marriage is quite a different thing from a maternal aunt or even a father’s sister.

Colleague Ben has a great blog where he writes rather interesting articles on Bible translation issues sparked by his consulting work. It’s academic in style but very accessible I think. His latest post has some of his own translation of Philippians, and there’s soon going to be something about accuracy in translation.

Ben also is something of a videographer and made our 2015 video about work and life in Nigeria along with some videos for his family and others involved in Bible Translation in Nigeria. The most recent video features my boss (translation coordinator) Mark Gaddis, who I first met in 2001 when he was working on his first translation project and I was working on my first dictionary.

Medals per Million

Update: as for 16 August 2016, Data from BBC, rio2016.com and Wikipedia:

17 August Medals metrics by GDP

Rank

Country

Gold

Silver

Bronze

Total

Popula–tion (M)

Medals per Million

Golds per Million

Medals per GDP $m

61 GRN

0

1

0

1

0.1

9.71

0.00

1000.00

36 ARM

1

3

0

4

3.0

1.34

0.33

371.26

40 GEO

1

1

3

5

3.7

1.34

0.27

358.63

19 JAM

3

0

2

5

2.7

1.84

1.10

355.69

48 FIJ

1

0

0

1

0.9

1.15

1.15

201.45

59 MGL

0

1

1

2

3.1

0.65

0.00

171.64

69 KGZ

0

0

1

1

6.0

0.17

0.00

165.84

69 MDA

0

0

1

1

3.6

0.28

0.00

164.37

22 CUB

2

2

4

8

11.2

0.71

0.18

160.23

48 KOS

1

0

0

1

1.8

0.54

0.54

154.54

54 AZE

0

2

3

5

9.8

0.51

0.00

142.28

48 BAH

1

0

0

1

0.4

2.65

2.65

112.15

12 HUN

6

3

4

13

9.8

1.32

0.61

110.42

37 BLR

1

2

2

5

9.5

0.53

0.11

108.96

18 CRO

3

2

0

5

4.2

1.19

0.72

100.14

30 UZB

2

0

4

6

31.6

0.19

0.06

97.33

16 KEN

3

3

0

6

44.2

0.14

0.07

92.75

38 SLO

1

2

1

4

2.1

1.94

0.48

91.34

20 KAZ

2

3

5

10

17.8

0.56

0.11

86.09

33 UKR

1

4

2

7

42.7

0.16

0.02

83.78

40 ETH

1

1

3

5

92.2

0.05

0.01

74.15

58 LTU

0

1

2

3

2.9

1.05

0.00

69.73

48 SER

1

0

0

1

14.8

0.07

0.07

68.62

43 BHR

1

1

0

2

1.4

1.42

0.71

66.49

14 NZ

3

6

1

10

4.7

2.12

0.64

58.85

69 EST

0

0

1

1

1.3

0.76

0.00

41.93

39 CZE

1

1

5

7

10.6

0.66

0.09

37.78

4 RUS

12

12

14

38

146.6

0.26

0.08

33.55

35 DEN

1

3

5

9

5.7

1.57

0.17

29.82

32 SA

1

5

1

7

55.7

0.13

0.02

26.29

69 TUN

0

0

1

1

11.2

0.09

0.00

22.73

43 SVK

1

1

0

2

5.4

0.37

0.18

22.27

42 ROM

1

1

2

4

19.9

0.20

0.05

21.98

27 GRE

2

1

1

4

10.9

0.37

0.18

20.56

9 AUS

7

8

9

24

24.2

0.99

0.29

19.99

7 NED

8

3

3

14

17.0

0.82

0.47

18.36

2 GB

19

19

12

50

65.1

0.77

0.29

18.11

24 COL

2

2

0

4

48.8

0.08

0.04

15.80

23 POL

2

2

3

7

38.4

0.18

0.05

14.78

21 PRK

2

3

2

7

25.3

0.28

0.08

13.01

6 ITA

8

9

6

23

60.7

0.38

0.13

12.44

8 FRA

7

11

11

29

66.7

0.43

0.10

11.77

34 SWE

1

4

1

6

9.9

0.61

0.10

11.70

25 BEL

2

1

2

5

11.3

0.44

0.18

10.75

11 KOR

6

3

5

14

50.8

0.28

0.12

10.60

31 IRN

2

0

2

4

79.5

0.05

0.03

10.36

48 PUR

1

0

0

1

10.3

0.10

0.10

10.03

43 VIE

1

1

0

2

92.7

0.02

0.01

9.93

27 THA

2

1

1

4

65.7

0.06

0.03

9.76

17 CAN

3

2

9

14

36.2

0.39

0.08

9.57

69 MOR

0

0

1

1

34.0

0.03

0.00

9.25

66 NOR

0

0

3

3

5.2

0.57

0.00

8.18

56 IRE

0

2

0

2

4.8

0.42

0.00

7.86

25 SWI

2

1

2

5

8.3

0.60

0.24

7.67

5 GER

11

8

7

26

81.8

0.32

0.13

7.50

15 BRZ

3

4

4

11

206.5

0.05

0.01

7.17

29 ARG

2

1

0

3

43.6

0.07

0.05

6.85

10 JPN

7

4

18

29

127.0

0.23

0.06

6.57

67 ISR

0

0

2

2

8.5

0.23

0.00

6.53

59 MAS

0

1

1

2

31.0

0.06

0.00

6.47

67 EGY

0

0

2

2

91.5

0.02

0.00

6.05

61 ALG

0

1

0

1

40.4

0.02

0.00

6.03

46 TPE

1

0

2

3

23.5

0.13

0.04

5.90

61 QAT

0

1

0

1

2.3

0.43

0.00

5.85

13 SPA

4

1

2

7

46.4

0.15

0.09

5.63

61 VEN

0

1

0

1

31.0

0.03

0.00

5.39

69 POR

0

0

1

1

10.3

0.10

0.00

4.88

1 US

28

28

28

84

324.2

0.26

0.09

4.53

3 CHN

17

15

19

51

1378.2

0.04

0.01

4.48

55 TUR

0

2

1

3

78.7

0.04

0.00

3.99

48 SIN

1

0

0

1

5.5

0.18

0.18

3.39

61 PHI

0

1

0

1

102.9

0.01

0.00

3.22

69 UAE

0

0

1

1

9.9

0.10

0.00

3.08

69 AUT

0

0

1

1

8.7

0.11

0.00

2.60

56 IDN

0

2

0

2

258.7

0.01

0.00

2.13

47 IOA

1

0

1

2

0.0

Yes, of course USA is top nation at the moment (in terms of Olympic medals) but it’s got a large population. Wouldn’t a fairer comparison be medals per head of population, or rather, per million. Here are the results sorted that way, as of 15 August 2016:

medals per head of population smaller Medals Per Million 15 August

Is translation easy or impossible?

For centuries – probably millenia – people have argued about whether translation is actually possible, whilst doing it and relying on it all the time. Some treat it as a mechanical – obvious – process, just switching words around. But most people who have been involved in meaningful translation realise that it’s a lot harder than that. So what perspective is true?

It’s occurred to me, as someone who struggles with learning languages, that translation maybe is only as hard as learning a language well. What do you think?

That means it’s tough, but not impossible. The hardest bit is probably learning to discard the assumptions and patterns from language A when learning and using language B.

It’s a little unfortunate that the ‘th’ sound in English is comparatively rarely used in other languages. And so it would be far too easy to mis-hear Nigerian colleagues talking about “fate” rather than “faith”. There is a rather important difference of course. Sometimes the context or expectation makes things clear, but other times it doesn’t.

It reminds me of the time in 2001 I set out to buy ‘paint thinner’ in the town of Zuru, in NW Nigeria. I was entirely unsuccessful, but did eventually manage to describe what I was looking for and purchase ‘paint sinner’.

Spelling and Grammar: revealing the insidious occult influence lurking within even Christian curricula

How many well-meaning parents have encouraged their offspring to compete in a spelling bee? How many have insisted on children spending hours learning and practising their spelling? “What is the harm in that?” we may ask.

Would we send our children to a witch to learn sorcery and magical incantations? It may be shocking to learn that the very same ‘spelling’ practised daily in our schools has its origins in the old Germanic word ‘spel’ meaning an enchantment or magical charm. Look in the Oxford English Dictionary and you will have to admit this is clear for all to see. The origin of the word proves that in exposing our dear little ones to ‘spelling’ we are inducing them to experiment with witchcraft.

As if this state of affairs was not bad enough, children then proceed to lessons in ‘grammar’. The word ‘grammar’ has a late Middle English root from Old French gramaire, via Latin from Greek grammatikē (tekhnē) ‘(art) of letters’. This sounds innocent enough were it not for the fact that the word was attested in Scots from early 18th century as ‘glamour’ meaning ‘enchantment, magic’ coming from a lesser-known, but sinister sense of ‘grammar’ meaning the kind of scholarship and learning “including the occult practices popularly associated with learning”. (Again this is all found in the OED.)

So in both these ways we can see that our modern ways of language instruction and literacy are rooted in menacing pagan magic. Whether you recognise it or not, every time you ‘spell something out’, you are invoking shadowy spirits.

So down with spelling and grammar! Let us send them back to their foul, fiendish founders!