Friday, 17 May 2013

New Ireland Translation Institute

NITI group photo

On an island which has had a long Bible translator presence, the opportunity to work on dialect adaptations and new translations for most of the remaining languages has been taken and turned into NITI; New Ireland Translation Institute. Twice a year language groups gather at Sohun, half an hour south of Namatanai, for four weeks to work on their translation with the support of translation advisers and consultants, away from the demands of village life.

The short walk to work
Reng, as he is locally known, lived here in Sohun for many years, raising his family, learning to speak Patpatar and translating the New Testament. It is on the foundation of this work that NITI has continued. The team of ex-pats live in Reng’s house, extended to fit the extras. Across the road and a short distance up the hill, NITI surprises you from the jungle. A large grassed area is home to the dormitories, classrooms, kitchen and dining room where the work happens.

NITI grounds, classrooms and kitchen
Each morning we gathered for a time of worship and a devotion then split into language groups to work. Reng supervises five language teams of dialects related to Patpatar. In the same room Steven works with two other related languages on an adaptation from another New Ireland NT. Seven teams in one room, but it is a focussed working space. There are computers everywhere, but I think I most appreciated the electricity the generator provided for powering the fans. At almost 4⁰ south of the equator and right by the coast, it can get pretty hot and sweaty!

Working with the Hinsaal, under the fan.
My role this course was working with one of the teams, Hinsaal, as they entered final edits and corrections to the entire NT. Reng had given us a long list of things to think about and we slowly chipped away at them. My role was largely to assist with understanding concepts from the English and Greek texts using Tok Pisin.

As a trade language, Tok Pisin has a limited vocabulary and relies on talking in pictures to reach the point. Using this to explain the difference between ‘courage’ and ‘encourage’ is a challenge! It means talking a circle around the topic, then on the next lap getting closer to the meaning, doing as many laps as it takes to eventually reach the target of understanding. I pray a lot that the Spirit may make the meaning clear where I cannot.

Beachfront living!
Lunch we shared with the participants and dinner we usually ate at home. After a long and focused day, it was nice to not use Tok Pisin and to catch up with the rest of the team. Interesting conversations also arise when you put seven linguists around the table, four of whom have completed a NT translation and all except me who have worked in the field for over twenty years.

The other two around the table were Bernie and Sherm. I long ago learnt that the cook and the engineer are often more important than the captain of the ship and the same is true here. Bernie looks after all of us with food and love. Sherm keeps the place running smoothly. Together they allow us to focus on the work we are here for, rather than all the other things going on around the place.

It has been good to get back into a village setting, back into language work and to see in practice how another cluster project works… They work hard, that is how they work!

 Living beside the ocean, where the sound of waves breaking on the reef accompanies me to sleep each night and wakes me gently in the mornings, has also been good for my soul and is absolutely worth the humidity that comes with being coastal at this latitude.

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