By Lindy Pate
I’m trained as a Bible Translator, I have a Master’s degree to be able to do that. I’m writing this, taking a break from editing Elementary Prep curriculum (the equivalent of kindergarten) that can be adapted to various vernacular languages. Why is a translator doing literacy work that they haven’t been trained for? Because there is no one else here to do it.
To facilitate usage of this curriculum, I recently organized a meeting for school board members from some of the language groups that we work with. At the meeting, a government official encouraged them to teach the children to read in their heart language first and then move on to learning English in later grades. In July, teachers from these languages will come and produce books and other materials in their language to be used with the curriculum that is being developed.
The surprise came for me at the end of the meeting. I thought we were done. And then one of the school board members raised his hand. “My question falls outside of this program. Why does PBT do so much translation without thinking about literacy? They pour lots of money into making books and then what happens to the books? The work is wasted. It happens sometimes in other languages and now the Mborena Kam is getting close to being finished. What will happen to the New Testaments? Will they just sleep on the shelves?”
I started to try to respond with a platitude, because that was all I could give, but he continued. “I was really glad when I heard about this meeting and about the workshop in July. PBT is finally doing some literacy again. But it isn’t enough. There needs to be adult literacy classes too. Some adults know how to read Tok Pisin and English but they can’t read their language. Others can read slowly but they need fluency classes. Some adults can’t read at all. What good will the New Testament be to them?”
Then in the silence I tried to respond, but what could I say? “You’re right. We haven’t done anything with adult literacy for a long time. We don’t have enough people. I’m a translator, not a literacy worker. I’m just doing this because no one else is here to do it. Pray for more people.”
Lindy is a Bible translator.