Posts Tagged ‘Literacy’

In a recent blog about Wycliffe First Steps in Belfast, I mentioned that it coincided with International Mother Language Day. Then I heard that Wycliffe colleague Clare Orr (who had been involved with Ebola prevention posters in local Senegalese languages) had been part of an International Mother Language Day in Senegal. So I asked her to write a guest blog for me… over to Clare!

Since 2000, international mother language day has been celebrated annually on the 21st February. This year, for the first time, an event was organised in Ziguinchor, southern Senegal, by the Inspection Académique (regional education authority) and SIL.*
Photo 1
SIL had invited each of our literacy partner organisations to participate. People came from all over the Casamance, all dressed up and ready for a party. We had representatives from the Bandial, Gusilay, Jola Fonyi, Karon, Mankanya, Manjaku, Kasa and Kwatay language groups, all of which are languages spoken in southern Senegal.
Photo 2b
As soon as they arrived, the Gusilay women got changed into their traditional outfits, comprised of a white t-shirt, indigo cloth as a wrap skirt, and beads strung around the torso. They started the day off with a song they had written specially, accompanied by drumming and dancing.
Photo 3
At the end of their song, we headed inside for speeches. The coordinator of each literacy project gave a speech in their mother tongue, with translation into French. The emphasis was on the value of the use of the mother tongue, particularly in education, in keeping with this year’s theme of, “Inclusive Education through and with Language – Language Matters”. This was followed by a speech by the head of the regional education authority and a speech by an SIL representative.
Photo 4
However, the dancing and singing weren’t over. Every time someone got up to make a speech, members of the audience sang and danced their way up to the front before returning to their seats to listen. That certainly kept things more interesting!
Photo 5
After the speeches, we went to another room where each partner organisation had laid out a table to exhibit their written materials. The majority of these materials have been produced in collaboration with SIL. Books, calendars, posters, photo stories and leaflets were available for everyone to see.
Photo 6
Members of the different partner organisations, some of whom understand each other’s languages, could be seen helping one another to read the other’s languages. As well as being an opportunity to show what they had, it was also a chance for each group to see what other groups had done and to get ideas for what they could produce.
Photo 7
No party would be complete without food, so we enjoyed lunch together, before some began the journey home whilst others continued to chat in their mother tongues.

* SIL is Wycliffe’s partner organisation with whom Clare works in Senegal in partnership with local language groups.

Postscript: while buying a new printer in Lisburn yesterday, I was chatting with a very helpful young sales assistant and happened to mention that I worked for Wycliffe Bible Translators. When he heard that there were about 7,000 languages spoken around the world, he replied, “And I can speak just one of them!”

Importantly though, that one is his mother language – and the Bible is readily and extravagantly available in it.

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… others quietly get on with doing their bit using their literacy skills in Senegal.

Translation workshop on Ebola posters

Clare at a translation workshop on Ebola posters

In my previous post, I quoted my colleague Eddie Arthur in his post… Please show this on X Factor

Of the six countries which have been affected by the current Ebola outbreak, two (Senegal and Nigeria) have contained it effectively (which is more than the USA managed) and Mali seems to be on top of it. With the right resources and preparation Africans countries are doing a good job.

Another colleague, Clare Orr, a Wycliffe Bible Translators literacy specialist from Belfast, is working in one of those countries – Senegal – which has so far remained Ebola free while being very close to infected countries to the south.

Clare’s job is very varied, but essentially she is there as a resource and help for Senegalese colleagues who are speakers of minority languages. In September, Clare and her colleague Elisabeth wrote…

Ebola awareness / prevention posters in four minority languages of Senegal

Ebola awareness / prevention posters in four languages of Senegal

Currently, there are no cases of Ebola in Senegal. The recovery of one infected person, who had travelled from a neighbouring country, was followed by the declaration that none of those with whom he had been in contact were infected. However, with the news in neighbouring countries becoming more and more worrying, there is a need for people here to be conscious of the danger and educated about the disease. We decided that we should hold a workshop to translate documents containing information on Ebola into the languages in which we work. At least two colleagues from four language groups took part in the workshop. We did research on the internet and found various posters, flyers and an interesting lesson that could be conducted by Ebola educators in awareness-raising sessions in their villages.

A lot of awareness-raising about Ebola is going on across Senegal on the radio and TV. However, many people in the villages don’t speak enough French, Senegal’s official language, or Wolof, the most widely-used national language, to understand the message well. This is why we are trying to reach them through documents and information in their own languages. Those who are able to read in their language can always read the information aloud for those who can’t.

The four languages are Manjaku, Bandial, Diola Fonyi and Gusilay, all spoken in southern Senegal.

Unlike Band Aid 30’s monumental ignorance of Africa, Clare and her colleagues realise the difficulties that people in rural villages in the Ebola stricken countries face.

Clare with one of the Ebola posters

Clare with one of the Ebola posters

False rumours pose a huge problem in our neighbouring countries: for example the idea that Ebola has been introduced by white people so that they can steal organs. Or that those governments exaggerate statistics in order to get more money from international donors. Moreover, the traditional African world view is very different from ours, which makes it difficult to raise awareness and manage the crisis. From a traditional viewpoint, illnesses mostly come because a spirit (fetish) is angry, or a mean person has put a curse on us. Sickness is to be addressed mainly at a spiritual level, therefore, by going to see a ‘marabout’ or fetish priest. Quite possibly the western view that ignores spiritual factors, is also to be questioned. On the other hand, many people in the villages have no idea what a virus is. There are worlds between people here and the doctors wearing yellow protective clothing and masks, who look scary to us, let alone to somebody in a remote village.

Giving information to people in their heart language has a very significant impact – whether that be about Ebola, other health issues, education, agricultural improvements or perhaps most importantly God’s Word, the Bible.  Clare and Elisabeth are certainly not forgetting  importance of spiritual influences on defeating Ebola.

We are praying that God will save this country from this illness, but we feel that we have a responsibility nonetheless to use our contacts and skills to equip and inform the local population at this vulnerable time. Our leadership is following the situation very closely. We foreigners can leave the country if needed, but our Senegalese friends and colleagues won’t be able to do so.

Read more of Clare and Elisabeth’s story

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Two Week Stint

Wycliffe Bible Translators UK are recruiting for a two week holiday with a difference!

Two Week Stint will run from Saturday 27th July to Saturday 10th August 2013, near Valence in the south of France.

Participants will join a group from across Europe as Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and ATB France* host a bilingual, cross-cultural and productive holiday, with plenty of opportunity for time spent with God and some adventure thrown in too!

In the mornings, participants will have a chance to worship, draw closer to God and reflect on his mission to the world – and join one of three tracks: creative, linguistic and teaching / literacy

For more details on Two Week Stint and to register go to www.wycliffe.org.uk/twoweekstint

* L’Association Traduire la Bible

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Looking forward to this tomorrow… twenty plus people expected.

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I’ve blogged on this before but I’m not well enough organised to remember when 🙂 … but now I think about it, I mentioned the IT student at Queen’s Universrity Belfast who thought Wycliffe only wanted people who speak loads of languages on a recent blog.

One of my aims as I relate to churches and individuals here in Ireland, is to explode that and other long standing myths about who we are and what we do in Wycliffe Bible Translators – so yesterday’s post on the Wycliffe Blog is a good story to share more widely – literacy can transform lives!

Literacy class in Chad

 Through reading the Bible, we want people to grow as Christians. For non-literate people, learning to read can be a vital step towards that goal.

We also know that people who become literate often become more confident and more able to make use of literacy for all kinds of purposes – writing letters, reading about how to grow better crops, keeping track of their income and expenditure, helping their children with their school work, and so on.

There is no end to the ways in which people can make use of literacy to make their life better – in other words, to transform their lives. Ian Cheffy

Read the whole blog here and then follow the links to find out more.

And by the way teachers make good literacy workers…

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World Class? flyer

World Class?

An evening to explore a wide range of opportunities for Christian teachers overseas. The Mount Belfast Thursday 20 January 2011

Wycliffe is one of 14 agencies hosting this event under the banner of Mission Agencies Partnership (MAP). We will start with an evening meal followed by presentations on how to get involved and stories about the experiences of teachers, parents and children.

Find out more about this event:

on our Wycliffe website

and also how to sign up for the event

on the MAP website


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I came across this question this morning while reading the Bible online at SU WordLive. We were looking at part of Paul’s first letter to Timothy. The word mission can mean different things to different people: it could be diplomatic, a journey into space, a dangerous military operation.

But on SU WordLive it was in the context of encouraging people to get a taste of Christian missionary work.

Taxi journey: Ndop style NW Cameroon

These three girls were part of a Wycliffe UK Engage summer team to Cameroon this August. Apart from travel arrangements about which UK health and safety experts would go nuts – note the crash helmets – they saw and did lots of other things. They met local translators working on the Bamunka and Bambalang New Testaments, visited the local Fon or king, shared worship with local Christians, helped out with children’s Bible clubs and sat in on literacy classes…

These people had been completely illiterate a year ago, and now they are pretty much fluent in reading and writing in their mother tongue

Have you ever been on a mission?

Would you like to find out more about the work of Wycliffe Bible Translators?

Then this is for you – Wycliffe and Me – a taster day in the UK happening soon at 3 different venues.

  • Scotland, Linlithgow: Saturday 2nd October 2010
  • Northern Ireland, Belfast: Saturday 6th November 2010
  • England & Wales, High Wycombe: Saturday 27th November 2010

Perhaps I’ll meet you at the Belfast one…

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Following up from yesterday’s blog on Google introducing Kiswahili, I have seen two blogs this morning from colleagues commenting on separate and somewhat contradictory news stories on language and education.

In For better or for worse… Matt Wisbey comments on a story from East Africa on “harmonisation” ie making everyone learn in English.

With harmonization of the education curriculum in the EAC, there might be the possibility of Tanzania which uses Kiswahili as medium of Instruction in Primary schools and Burundi and Rwanda which use French to switch to English.

Matt is less than impressed.

As if access to primary education wasn’t hard enough through one alternative language (Swahili in Tanzania, French in Burundi and Rwanda), they now talk about the possibility of changing the language of instruction to a language two steps removed from everyday life… English! Here this discussion is held in the context of ‘harmonisation’, with the default answer being that harmony must mean everyone doing the same thing, using the same language. This is a false economy. True harmony, I would argue, will only come when everyone is able to engage fully with the learning that is ahead of them. When everyone has the same access to education and opportunity to learn. This is only possible when people are provided the opportunity to learn in the language that they understand the best, their mother tongue if you like.

Meanwhile Eddie Arthur focuses on Local Languages in Education with this quote:

Brazzaville, Congo – A United Nations education expert on Thursday told a conference of top African education officials in Brazzaville that countries on the continent need to switch from foreign to local languages as a medium of instruction in elementary school to stimulate learning interest in first-time learners and to enable them to easily grasp concepts being taught.

Yao Ydo, a UNESCO regional adviser on literacy and non-formal education, told a conference of African education ministers that the predominant use of foreign languages, particularly in early school stages, was the first faultline of the education systems on the continent.

He said not only did this intimidate and confuse children entering school for the first time, but also made it difficult for them to understand, or grasp new concepts being introduced to them at their early learning stages.

Dramatising the importance of language, and its impact on education, the UNESCO official said he once gave an address at a conference on education in Europe in his mother language, leaving all the participants bewildered.

“That is the same bewilderment that confronts African children every year when they enter school for the first time, and in subsequent years of learning,” Ydo told the conference.

Read the whole article here

For many of us, the reaction may be so what’s the problem? Eddie’s comments help us to empathise with the educational plight of millions of children across rural Africa.

To try and imagine what is going on here, picture yourself going to school and finding that everything is done in French rather than English. Everything from being told to go into the classroom and sit at your seats, to the first lessons all take place in a language that you don’t understand. Just imagine the confusion that this would bring on a daily basis.

This debate sets the local NI education debate into perspective… but that’s another story

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Colleague Matt Wisbey flagged this up on Twitter this morning…

Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Chrome – Google’s very own web browser – are now available in a Kiswahili language version according to reports received last week, making access to the Internet for East African, non-English speakers possible at last, improving and expanding the realm of communication, including travel and tourism.The launch of the Kiswahili language versions coincided with the official start of the East African Community’s Common Market, signifying that a united East Africa now can communicate in their most spoken “lingua franca” when using a computer and connecting to the Internet. Over 120 million people are thought to speak the language across the wider region.

Being much more West African and never having set foot in East Africa, I leave it to Matt and people like Mark Woodward to comment on how effective this will be.

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On 11 May the MA in Literacy Programme Development was validated by Middlesex University. It is the second MA to be developed by ETP (the European Training Programme), following the MA Field Linguistics which was validated in 2008.

Introductory course for literacy teachers, Ndop, NW Cameroon Feb 2009

This news broke today on the Wycliffe UK blog– and it was a double pleasure for me!

First up, it’s great for us to be able to offer a second MA course to those training at our ETP training centre in England.

And second, the photo used is one that I took on my visit to the Ndop Cluster in NW Cameroon in February 2009 – great to be reminded of a great trip.

Read the whole news story here.

Wycliffe Bible Translators is committed to working with ETP and other partner organisations to see God’s word translated not only into words on a page but into hearts and lives.  Literacy is an important part in the full process of Bible Translation, and this MA will be a significant stepping-stone in making God’s message of love fully accessible to every language community on earth.

More information about the MA

Considering going overseas with Wycliffe to help in Literacy?

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