Friday, 28 June 2013

Tiang Sunday School Workshop

Teaching editing and back translation
Heading to New Ireland to run Sunday School material production workshops with the Tiang, we knew little more about what we were doing than the start of this sentence suggests. We did not know how many people were coming, what education they had, what they had already completed or prepared or what they were expecting of us. We came with our computers loaded with resources and an openness to whatever this unexpected land might serve us this time. Between the experiences and resources of Catherine and I, we really could have run any of a dozen workshops.

Typing up drafts
As it turned out, 14 people came from Djaul island to work on Sunday School material production with education from 6th grade to teachers college. The book we thought we were doing they had completed already and the draft they had ready for us we thought was already finished and printed.

The material we were working with was created by another translator in New Ireland and then provided for others to use in whatever language they chose to translate it into. Each lesson featured a story and some questions or activities. These were largely paper based, to encourage literacy in the vernacular. The people we were working with had asked for ways to have less paper based activities as they often had no paper or pencils available. This became one of the challenges of the workshop.

Tiang at work
We taught translation skills, reviewed the alphabet, reviewed punctuation, taught editing skills and generally encouraged a lot of work in a language we could not understand. Editing can be a challenge, when people do not want to change the work of someone else in case they shame them, yet among the group were some very good editors. Another challenge was spelling, for there is not a lot of printed material in Tiang so spelling is not always established. I often thought of the many spelling Shakespeare used for his own name as words were edited back and forth between the same two options.

While the Tiang translated and edited, Catherine and I typed all their drafts and later entered the corrections. Typing a language you do not know is a challenge, but after a few days our typing improved, as we learnt which consonant clusters did or did not exist and what the correct spelling of more common words were. It reached a point where we would correct the spelling of some words automatically, as we’d seen the edit enough times elsewhere.

Advisor checking
The stage of material production which I enjoyed the most was the advisor checks, when Catherine and I each sat down with a small group to read through the story, ask questions and discuss the activities. In many ways it became a time of Bible study and teaching, as we discussed the important distinctions and points in the text to make sure that they were clear. We talked through the activities, both encouraging literacy when paper and pen were available and discussing non-paper alternatives to the activities.

The Sunday school books in other languages

Due to prior commitments, I left half way through the workshop time, leaving the second week, the bulk of the advisor checks and all the printing to Catherine and the Tiang team. It was good to have been there for the bulk of the teaching and to have enjoyed the welcome of another people group. 

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