February: Getting Ashɛ up to speed
I spent most of February intensively training/retraining the Ashɛ translators on the job as we continued to work on getting Luke’s gospel into decent shape for publication. Arams Zachariah, who has worked with us for 6 years, and new translator Anthony Isuindok travelled into the Jos office which made things easier for me. They came for a week then worked in the Ashɛ office for a week and came back. I wanted them to try some independent work but not to go too far without supervision. (Of course various funerals interrupted work.)
We’ve worked on Luke for well over 5 years. You might wonder what on earth we are still doing; some Ashɛ people apparently do! Most of the right meaning is mostly in the right place but we’ve been going through checking less obvious aspects, like making sure new paragraphs begin in the right place and sound like new paragraphs. We’re trying to improve section headings so they are helpful and not a hindrance to reading the Bible well. We’re looking at the big picture of how we use certain words and phrases for ideas and themes that run through the whole Bible - foreign names, customs, God, angels, disciples, apostles, messengers, temple, etc. We’ve been trying to make our spelling more reliable too. This brought out a huge list of words which sound similar and could be written the same way, but where we want to keep the spelling different to ensure readers understand things well.
Often the most noticeable difference is the tone (or intonation), but Ashɛ people literate in English or Hausa aren’t familiar with any way of distinguishing tone in writing or even talking about it abstractly, so we have a challenge on our hands. We have 2 variations of ‘e’ and ‘o’ sounds, as well as vowels having two versions pronounced ‘through the nose’ or ‘through the mouth’. And of course some vowels in certain words may be longer than others and sometimes this is a very significant difference. Figuring out how to separate words most helpfully has also been quite a challenge, particularly as vowels very regularly get lost at the end of words. When we compare what’s in Luke to the other very rough drafts of Matthew, Mark and Acts, the difference is quite stark and I think the translators are appreciating why it’s profoundly unhelpful to rush ahead drafting translations of more books before we’ve mastered writing Ishɛ consistently and clearly.
It’s handy that Anthony is comfortable with computers, but he’s had lots of time outside of the Ashɛ area so is less confident with the normal patterns of the language. We could do with taking on a third translator to maximise this training time and build capacity.
Realising that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to meet up with them I asked Arams and Anthony to come in for 3 more days at the end of February along with new literacy coordinator Joash, so that we could make some more progress together. Please pray for them as they continue working on some literacy teaching materials and continuing checking through Luke’s gospel as we did together in February. God willing we will meet up again next week in Jos.