• Jack

The Role of Linguistics

One of the things that has been further clarified, along with our assignment location, has been my actual role once we arrive on the field. There are so many jobs in the process of Bible translation, but from the beginning, we knew that I would either be on more of a translation track or more of a linguistics track.

Let me explain what that means...

A role in translation would mean working with a team of national translators to help create a clear, natural, and accurate translation of God's Word. By the time translation specialists get involved with the project, they could either be helping with the exegesis in the early stages or could be checking final drafts to make sure that they are faithful to the Text. Their role involves coming alongside a team of locals to bring their expertise to the translation task.

A role in linguistics would mean working on the front lines of language development, the very first step in Bible translation. Linguistics could include the grammatical and phonological analysis of a language, the creation of an alphabet and writing system, and working with language communities to determine the best way to get Scripture in their language. All of these tasks are done in close partnership with native speakers to ensure accuracy and ownership of this job.

The role that I have been called to fill is in the field of linguistics!

And I am thrilled to do this. I was told that my training at DIU over the last year would solidify whether I had more of a knack for translation or for linguistics and it has confirmed that God is calling me to work in linguistics. As part of my class, I even had the chance to work one-on-one with a native speaker of a language I had never heard of. My job was to learn and classify the language, working toward a final project that presented an initial grammar and phonology sketch. That probably already sounds boring to many of you, but I loved every second of it!

And to think that I get to do this kind of thing full time gets me so excited to start the next step of our journey!

That brings us to Côte d'Ivoire! I want to help you understand the need that exists in this country.

It is located on the southern coast of West Africa. By land area, it is comparable in size to the state of New Mexico. However, there are over 26 million people in that small area (about the same population as Texas), and they speak over 70 languages! The density of ethnic groups and variety of languages is hard to get my head around sometimes!

A page from the Bakwe New Testament

Of course, some of these languages have Scripture. We received copies of the recently dedicated Bakwé New Testament and the complete Djimini Bible when we were there in 2019. Other languages are already in process, and at least 20 languages need more work to be done in order to prepare them for translation to begin. That's the role of a linguist. That's what I'll be doing.

And I can't wait to get started!

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