Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

An Update on the Language Learning and Translation Work

Written by The DeSterke Family
Once again, receive our hearty greetings in JesusÕ name. He continues to bless us all and grants us all the necessary health and strength to fulfill our callings.

In the last article I introduced Leonardo, my language helper, and his passion for seeing all his people able to read the entire Bible in their own language. He confirms again and again that they donÕt really understand the Spanish translation. He persuaded me and IÕve made a compromise; more time and focus on the translation of Genesis.

Genesis forms the basis for a truly Christian world view (in other words, it is the mental glasses people use to help them understand to some degree what they see has gone on and is going on in the world around them).

The Way the Genesis Translation is Working

1. Leonardo, using:
a) his key knowledge of Cubulco Achi (words I would not learn for many yearsÑif ever);
b) a Hebrew-Spanish interlinear, and a Spanish Bible dictionary;
c) a Spanish-Spanish dictionary (this is also his second language);
d) a few Spanish commentaries;
e) the input of his wife and extended family with which he discusses the word nuances and word usages; and
f) prayer for guidance focused on Psalm 119.

2. Meanwhile I research the Hebrew text as I am able, do necessary Hebrew word studies, grammar checks, and attempt to soak myself in commentaries (a lot of this goes on during step 3 as well). All of this dovetails in the next step.

3. We both sit in front of the computer. Leonardo gives me his rendering of a phrase in Achi. I take notes while I am bombarding him with both questions as to the nuances of this word and as I set up different mental scenarios to see if this is the best word or phrase we are looking for. This can be frustrating for both of us, but always ends with a shout of joy when we feel confident of what will then become the proto-translation base. Leonardo, under my watchful eye, does almost all of the entries into the computer and backups at the end of the day. This also allows him to learn computer basics, which is already proving to be very useful.

4. The end result of all of this still needs further careful checking.
a) Other Cubulco Achi speakers
b) Some professional checkers from WycliffeÕs SIL (them in particular, so that we go through the long developed standard checking procedure they have developed from many languages in many countries). SIL leaves the country in 1999 when their contract with the Guatemalan government expires. I will be aiming to have Genesis 1-11, as a bare minimum checked by them, as well as make maximum use of any of their other resources. They are most friendly and helpful.

5. Usually the books of the Bible are published as they are produced. Once the entire project is completed, the Old Testament will be combined with a reviewed/revised New Testament, and the Cubulco Achi people will one day have GodÕs Word in their own language, D.V.

I have already had some very profitable meetings with various SIL people regarding resources and other, more language-specific questions. I have also recently discovered that one of the worldÕs reading experts in the Mayan family of languages, Nora England, resides in Antigua (a 20-30 minute drive from Guatemala city). I have some of her books and have read some of her journal articles, but was very surprised to find that she had made her home in Guatemala.

The first attempt at a meeting indicated a willingness on her part but insufficient time in the city for myself. The last time I was in the city the ever-present missionaryÕs expect-the-unexpected prevented me from going to Antigua. I am now aiming for the next time we are in the city (September?).

Literacy
Leonardo also continues to be involved in literacy work in his aldea, and he dreams of seeing at least his entire aldea able to read one day. CubulcoÕs bilingual literacy-promoting newspaper, the Voz Cubulence (the ÒVoice [of] CubulcoÓ), introduced in the last article, continues to progress. You will remember that Victoriano, John OttenÕs right-hand man at the hospital, is the editor in his ÒspareÓ time.

We are currently struggling to get the July issue out during the Cubulco feria, not unlike the town fairs, when there will be an opportunity to reach many people from the mountains. The articles are newsy, announcements of things like upcoming hospital surgery dates and various religious and evangelistic articles. More copies were photocopiedÑ400 copies of three pages, both sides, thus hopefully reaching 1% of the 40,000 peopleÑthis time due to the opportunity.

F.V.P.O.
As you will remember, these are the initials of the Spanish rendering of the phrase from Romans that Òfaith comes by hearing.Ó This is the name of a program which literally gives away, at no cost, a complete set of Cubulco Achi New Testament cassette tapes to any local group promising to listen to them for a minimum of one half hour per week.

The meeting we held to inform the Cubulco Achi people of this program was very promising. The mission, in recognition of the widespread and serious poverty of especially the mountain people, included a cassette player with each set of the New Testament tapes.

Since the majority of the Cubulco Achi people are illiterate, we need to view this as we would view printed Bible distribution to literate people. The public reading of the Scriptures has throughout history always played a major role in the spreading of the truth of GodÕs Word, until Òthe people in the pewÓ became able to read on an increasingly larger scale, and as the invention of the printing press made the Scriptures more available to these same people.

The FVPO program requires follow-up work. Someone was needed who would be willing to cover most of the rugged mountainous Cubulco area on foot and check up on the listening stations. The result of the invitations and subsequent meeting was that more than some forty listening stations literally encircle the town of Cubulco. Someone was need to make sure that the resources were being properly used, to make suggestions for more effective use if necessary, to resolve technical difficulties (clean player Òheads,Ó etc.) encourage the work in general, and fill out the necessary reports for the Mexican sponsors of this program. Such people are usually referred to as a promotor of a work.

Mateo (Matthew), the former chaplain of the hospital, had inherited a one room adobe hut from his father in which his entire family lived. This is not uncommon incidentally, as one can only divide up the family farm for so many generations without striking it rich and being able to buy more land. He had left the hospital for work in the United States and God truly blessed him there, though the time he was there was very difficult for him. He managed to save and returned with enough money to buy his own land and build his own home. He was running out of money, however, and sharing with me his plan to get work in the city, thus once again leaving his family of mostly boys who need their fatherÕs godly example.

He was ready to leave in a week. A relative had secured work for him as an elevator operator with good pay. We discussed the need of his boys, hopefully part of the next generation of Cubulco Christian leadership. During the discussion I offered him the necessary promotor job with the FVPO program. Mateo accepted, and as John Otten can attest, having had him as hospital chaplain for some years, he is a shining example of an Achi speaking Christian who has an excellent character, so necessary for the FVPO promotor job.

He has just finished his first ÒcircuitÓ around Cubulco to the various listening stations and we were grateful for the good reports. Some of the mountain Achi became believers the very same night he visited the listening session in their area. At least three circuits will be made in total, an then perhaps a new attempt to spread the Achi New Testament by tape to other areas will be made.

Mateo is at the same time creating a needed web of contacts which we will need for the proofing of the Old Testament translations. We hope to begin this once we are reasonably satisfied with Genesis 1-11, chapter 12 offering a relatively natural breakpoint as it begins with the choosing of Abraham.

Achi Hymnal
The current Achi hymnal used in all the Achi churches was re-typed and reprinted as was hoped. The plastic folders allow for the easy insertion of new hymns as they are produced by the Achi Christians gifted in this area. I look forward to introducing some Psalms some day, once I am more confident in the language.

As we mentioned last time, there were some forty or more new hymns Òfloating around.Ó Thirty of these have been checked once to the music, were written down, entered into the computer, and are being interlinearized with Spanish glossing beneath, by Leonardo and myself. From there, Rev. Herfst will check these for theological balance and also suggest neglected themes for future creation and addition to the Achi Hymnal.

The interlinearizing process is what is referred to as a back-translation (i.e. from Achi into Spanish, the reverse of what we are usually doing, but used in checking translations). I am learning a great deal from this process.

An Example of the Power of GodÕs Written Word
Donald W. McCulough, in his book entitled The Trivialization of God (NavPress, 1995), speaking on the written word, quotes a professor lecturing on Martin Luther: ÒÕWhy did LutherÕs Reformation, in contrast to all prior attempts at reformation, become a reformation in deed and not in words?Õ His provocative answer was, ÔLutherÕs Reformation became a reformation in deed and not just in words because Luther trusted in the Word and not at all in the deeds.Õ

ÒJulius Hickerson was a promising young doctor who could have enjoyed a comfortable job in the United States, but he felt GodÕs call to serve as a missionary in Columbia, ministering to souls as well as to bodies. His friends and associates thought he was crazy, and he himself must have wondered when, after two years, he could point to few visible results of his labour. It ended in tragedy as he was killed in a plane crash attempting to take supplies to a remote villageÉÓ [The missionary agency sent a missionary back into the remote area, and discovered the place fully evangelized. When the new missionary asked how it had happened, the Columbians showed him a Bible in their language which bore the name Julius Hickerson on the inside cover] É In the [plane] wreckage some natives found a well marked Bible in their language, and they began to read, and before long churches were started. The written Word of God will not return empty.Ó

We continue to rejoice to be fellow workers with you in GodÕs work among the Cubulco Achi people.

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