The first time we met members from one particular village, after we explained that we wanted to write down their language and translate the Bible, said, “If you don’t pick the letter for the sound “s” that we want, we won’t touch your Bible.” These words echo in my mind as THE meeting to choose an alphabet approaches.
This Tuesday, in a Kwakum village called Beul, representatives from every Kwakúm village will be coming to decide which letters they want to represent the sounds of their language. I have been indirectly preparing for this meeting for years and intensely preparing for the past year and a half. For the past two weeks, I have spent hours with my language partners explaining to them linguistic concepts that are critical in understanding what makes up a good writing system. We have spent hours together going through the meeting backwards and forwards. We have anticipated questions that people will ask us as well as potential objections. I have color-coated handouts to pass out, a detailed PowerPoint presentation, my children are assigned to pass out documents at certain points in the meeting, and we have spent much time in prayer.
I recognize that what is determined at this meeting will be difficult to change. Orthography specialist, Hinton, writes: “There is a relatively short window of opportunity for linguists developing new writing systems to share their views with speech communities before a writing system becomes finalized and entrenched…In the past, linguists have been barred from a community for making the mistake of trying to improve an established writing system.” (Developing Orthographies for Unwritten Languages, p 165). Because of quotes like this one and the threat given to us, already, by one particular Kwakúm village, we are asking people to pray.
- That all those presenting would explain linguistic concepts clearly and accurately.
- Pray for those reading at the end of the meeting in Kwakum: that they would read well and communicate to the people that reading in Kwakúm is possible.
- That for my sections (“Why we need ONE Kwakum writing system” and “What constitutes a good writing system”) would be communicated clearly in Kwakúm.
- That people would be reasonable and seek to do what is best for the group. That there would be a willingness to compromise.
- That the Americans who will be with us (visitors who are considering Bible translation themselves…) will be inspired to come and start translation and literacy programs themselves.
- That our children would be helpful, interested, and not a distraction at the meeting.
- That we would decide on one standard, ready-to-publish, alphabet on Tuesday.
- That we would be very patient if/when people respond unfavorably to our recommendations.
- On a personal note, I am experiencing pain in a tooth that I have already had two root canals on. Please pray that God would just heal this tooth.
Our hope, rest, and confidence is in the Lord. We know that we have him and a host of angels on our side and look to him for a calm, professional, reasonable, productive meeting.
From of old no one has heard or perceived by ear no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.Isaiah 64:4