Friday, August 19, 2011

Mongu Musings

(Mercy proudly holding the first printed scripture in Fwe - the first printed piece of prose other than comments on grammar from the first booklet we printed in March.)

This blog post was written when I was in Mongu, Western Province of Zambia a few weeks ago. I completed my second workshop there with The Seed Company. The Fwe now have the first scripture translated into their language EVER! What a privilege! What a milestone! What an honour to be involved in this work.
So, I’m here in Mongu again doing work with the MaFwe, a tribe from the Western Province of Zambia who up until last March had never had their language written down. I’m working with the five MaFwe from last time: Mboozi, Mercy, Innocent, Cosmas and Orbet.
Since the last time we met the little booklet we produced has done its rounds in many MaFwe villages and has been very well received. It’s been wonderful to hear that since the written alphabet has been circulated people have started to pray publicly and preach in Fwe rather than in Lozi (the lingua franca) as they had done before. What a glorious response to God’s goodness in making provision for their language to be written down!
This workshop we have begun to work through translation principles including basic exegesis skills. We’re operating under a 80/20 rule: 80% of the time should be spent in preparation and study and the other 20% is actual translation.
It’s been a real joy to see how much the Fwe themselves are growing in understanding of the Bible as we read different Bible translations together as well as the Translator’s Notes provided by SIL which have been written specifically for mother-tongue translators. The Fwe say that even just this 3 week workshop will make them better preachers let alone turn them into translators.


(Innocent doing a 'back translation' - the translated text is translated again into English so that I, the consultant, can do exegetical checks).
We’ve given them an NIV, NLT, one Bible dictionary and one easy-to-understand regular English dictionary. We’ll also be providing a computer loaded with Paratext - some software that enables you to see a range of translations all on the screen at the same time, and a large number of extra exegetical helps such as commentaries, Translator’s Notes and other books.
It’s difficult for the MaFwe to get together between the workshops. It takes
at least 7hrs walking to get between the closest neighbours let alone the ones who live in a different district. I feel great compassion for them and really wonder how this will all work out. They are required to do translation between the workshops as well. By the next workshop in November they need to have translated Luke 2, 3, and 4.
Looking back now from back home in Cape Town, South Africa, I'm still in that fuzzy world of 'Did that really happen? Do the Fwe really have a little scripture booklet in Fwe for the first time ever?' It just seems so bizarre and yet when people ask me about the project I'm so matter of fact about it. It feels weird and normal at the same time. Of course I'm a Bible translation consultant. Yes, these 2 documents (the Reading and Writing booklet from March and the Good Samaritan translation from July) are the only printed document available in the world in the Fwe language.

(Cosmas, Innocent, Orbet, myself and Mercy holding copies of the Good Samaritan translation in Fwe. Mboozi is missing as he had to return home due to a family emergency.)


So the Fwe finally have the Good Samaritan translated into their language. They also worked really hard to produce a few more traditional stories ('A man, his dog and an antelope' - it's a ripsnorter!!) and a 20+ page beginnings of a semantic domain dictionary (topical dictionary).