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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Global Recordings

Yesterday Wayne brought up this very interesting problem from a Bible translation conference.
    How do you give translated scripture to one tribal group that has been split for 30 years over two spelling systems for writing their language? Answer: Try non-print approaches, audio and video recordings of the translation. There is no spelling to be seen.
Peter then responded in the comment section with a description of a Roman/Cyrillic spelling system split and this practical caution,
    But I would be worried if this dispute over spelling became the primary grounds for choosing an entirely non-print approach.
Very true. However, I am going to take a wild guess and suggest that there are certain other differences in the two situations Wayne and Peter are describing and that there may well be primary grounds for recommending a non-print approach in the situation Wayne described.

In the case of the Roman/Cyrillic split, there are two established writing systems each used for languages of wider communication and belonging to a complete historic literary tradition. The transfer from one to the other was probably legislated at some time by the state (I am guessing) and people have been educated primarily in one or the other, depending on their age.

In the North American situation, each system probably has local use, and is not a part of a long-standing literary tradition. The written traditions exist, and need to be honoured. The recommendation to print in both systems is valid, and now plausible. However, the move towards a non-print medium may well be dependent on other factors.

I have personally sat in on conferences where an indigenous North American language is used for oral communication and all notes and agendas are in English. Often there is a real spliit between literacy in the language of wider communication, French, English or Spanish, and a thriving minority oral language culture.

In this case, the reason for choosing non-print approaches to the scriptures is dependent on a communication bias that acts against first language literacy, but is strongly dependent on first language oral communication for face-to-face, radio, and phone communication. The telephone and radio have often replaced to a certain extent minority language literacy vehicles like newspapers and letters. *

This phenomenon is well-recognized around the world and was part of the impetus for the work of Gospel Recordings, now called Global Recordings. This work was started by Joy Ridderhof who developed a very simple technology for playing recorded portions of the Bible without electricity for those areas of the world where indigenous first language literacy was not well established.
    What could God do with a woman full of faith and love for Him? What could He do with a woman too weak in body to be a long-term field missionary? What could He do with her if her joy was unquenchable?
    Joy Ridderhof, founder of Gospel Recordings, proved the answer. With a tangible impact in over 4,000 people groups and a ministry that has remained on the leading edge of mission strategy for half a century, there is no doubting that God has done a marvelous thing through His humble daughter.
    Mission Frontiers (Note: I did not personally write this nice little piece of prose. I wish I had though!)
This work has recently been featured in a Television program called The Tailenders
(HT Justin Taylor)

The debut of The Tailenders is July 25, and by clicking where it says check local listings I was able to find that this film will be aired at 10:00 pm. on August 3 on KCTS, Seattle. Perfect!

The website will also

    feature interviews with filmmaker Adele Horne as well as with Larry Eskridge, the associate director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals, and Dr. Peter Ladefoged, one of the world’s foremost experts on endangered and disappearing languages. Our companion website also links to other websites and resources on evangelism and endangered languages.
A book about Ridderhof''s story for young readers is here.

*The internet is not available as yet in the vast majority of these literacies. That alone should tell us something about the future of these systems. I don't mean that the codepoints don't exist, in most cases they do. However, this is just the first step in the many stages of development. Have you ever wondered how many major scripts Google actually works for. Quite a lot, but not quite as many as are advertised.

PS: I think it was the Ladefoged reference that really caught my eye. One of my favourite textbooks!

Note: This has been updated to correct a wrong link.

2 Comments:

At Sat Jul 22, 04:42:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

However, I am going to take a wild guess and suggest that there are certain other differences in the two situations Wayne and Peter are describing and that there may well be primary grounds for recommending a non-print approach in the situation Wayne described.

Yes, Suzanne. You have guessed right. And Peter is right to have said what he did. The particular context is one in which literacy in the traditional language is not highly valued by its speakers. They view their language as oral, not written, and there is no need to change that, at this stage of cultural change, etc.

The two orthographies are relatively close, both variants of Roman orthographies. One solution would be to produce a diglot printed page with one page having one orthography and the facing page the other orthography. But Bible societies are not keen on spending money for those extra pages.

Nice blog post and good comments from both you and Peters.

 
At Sun Jul 23, 02:33:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, thank you for your comment. I entirely agree with you. It seems that in the situation Wayne mentioned (you are guessing I think that it is North American, although for good reasons, but similar situations occur worldwide) there were good reasons for taking a non-print approach quite separate from the orthography issue. The situation I described, and which you further characterised accurately, was one in which all other factors pointed towards the need for a printed Bible - as well as non-print versions. So, while I stand by "I would be worried if this dispute over spelling became the primary grounds for choosing an entirely non-print approach", I have no problem with the decision in this particular case - as the dispute over spelling is by no means the primary grounds.

Thanks for mentioning the work of Gospel Recordings. Their UK ministry, known as Language Recordings, has its headquarters at the same site near High Wycombe where I studied and worked for several years. I knew some of their people, but not a lot about their work.

 

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