If you are at all familiar with PBT, you might by some remote possibility have thought of us as bridge builders in the sense that we aim to build the bridge of faith in Christ that leads to salvation as we provide the Word of God to those who have never had access to it in their own language. Recently, several of us associated with PBT attended a bridge building course of another nature, yet still related to that overall goal of helping others find salvation in Christ—related because we are involved not only in translating the Word of God in various Papua New Guinean languages, but also in developing literacy so that people can read the translated Word.
As a part of our literacy program, our three national literacy supervisors, Kevin, Max, and Justin have been developing an elementary school curriculum that can be adapted for use in various languages. Bethaney Butler and Diane Miller have been assisting them as they work to develop a curriculum which meets both village needs and government standards. These five people plus a former PBT PNG literacy worker, Lynn Muir, who is now a PBT Associate, recently attended a Bridging Workshop conducted by SIL (better known as Wycliffe Bible Translators in the US) at Ukarumpa in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.
So, what kind of bridging is this that we are talking about? It is bridging the gap between mother tongue instruction and instruction in English, the language of education and business here in Papua New Guinea. The current educational policy in Papua New Guinea is to provide instruction in mother tongue languages for the first three years of school, slowly moving to instruction in English. Research and experience have shown that it is best to build a solid foundation of learning in one’s mother tongue before students proceed to learning in a different language. Elementary Prep classes concentrate entirely on learning in one’s mother tongue. Bridging to English, which formerly began in grade 2, is now moving to grade 1 with English being taught as a subject and the language of instruction still being one’s mother tongue. Listening and speaking in English will be taught in the first two terms of grade 1 and reading and writing will begin to be taught in terms three and four. English will continue to be taught as a subject in grades 2 and 3.
We learned various techniques for bridging the gap between what Elementary Prep students already know about listening, speaking, reading and writing in their mother tongue and what they still need to learn in order to develop those same skills in English. Various games, songs and teaching techniques were demonstrated, and we were all given a set of letter cards and an illustrated laminated chart showing the English alphabet ordered according to frequency of occurrence for use in proceeding from what is already known in the mother tongue to the unkown in English.
Kevin and Max are now back in village schools using there what they have learned, while Justin continues, with help from Bethaney and Diane when needed, to work on getting our Elementary 1 curriculum ready for adaptation into various languages. Later this year, Martha Wade will attempt the first adaptation into the Apal language, in which she serves as a Bible translator.
Please pray for all of us as we seek to build strong bridges which will help the people of Papua New Guinea to not only have the Word of God in their own languages, but also be able to use it effectively. Pray that God, working through His powerful Word, will continue to transform lives throughout this country.
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12