Training in West Africa

Kish Bai (Nigeria) and Greg Cooper (Australia)
Kish Bai (Nigeria) and Greg Cooper (Australia)

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David Miller and Greg Cooper (Australia)
Sodalo Clement director of GRN Togo
Godswill Chongsi from Cameroon
Andrew Kanu director of GRN Sierra Leone
Fredrick Kargbo from Sierra Leone

West African teams were recently due to receive an upgrade of training, so four specialist trainers travelled from Australia, and one from Cameroon, to conduct various aspects of the required training in September and October 2010.

We called this event "TOW", short for Technical and Operations Workshop.

The training workshop was conducted twice, for the benefit of different staff from the various countries: five weeks in Sierra Leone (to also include the Liberians) and then again for five weeks (with French translations) in Togo (to include the others).

David Miller trained the staff in general information technology and computer software security issues, as well as specific use of GRN's database of languages, dialects and recordings. He also spent a lot of time servicing and upgrading existing equipment, as well as arranging for new internet connections (which in some places is quite an art).

Greg Cooper trained the staff in language awareness (including linguistics, sociolinguistic surveying and use of GPS), translation principles (especially as it applies to oral translations of Biblical texts) and Bible background (physical and cultural setting/context of Bible lands).

Noel Bachelor (in Togo) and Kim Knight (in Sierra Leone) trained the staff in the use of specific recording and playback equipment, specific editing and programming software, and data management. Kim also went to South Africa to give training there.

Fredrick Kargbo from Sierra Leone assisted David and Kim in technical areas in the Sierra Leone phase of the workshop, and Godswill Chongsi from Cameroon assisted Greg with translation principles in Sierra Leone and Togo and with oral and written translation from English into French for the Togo phase of the workshop.

Andrew Kanu and Sodalo Clement, directors of GRN in Sierra Leone and Togo respectively, did a great job of organising and hosting the events.

West African teams were recently due to receive an upgrade of training, so four specialist trainers travelled from Australia, and one from Cameroon, to conduct various aspects of the required training in September and October 2010.

We called this event "TOW", short for Technical and Operations Workshop. It was not a conference, and it was not an academic educational course (though it did include lessons and exams). It was truly a workshop because it was a very interactive learning environment, and the participants not only learned new information and skills, they were also given plenty of opportunity to practise them.

The training workshop was conducted twice, for the benefit of different staff from the various countries: five weeks in Sierra Leone (to also include the Liberians) and then again for five weeks (with French translations) in Togo (to include the others).

There were some unexpected aspects such as: transport from the airport by small covered speedboat, with an action movie being screened, transport back to the airport by large ferry with loud TV and/or live comedy acts and hawkers on board.

In the town there were taxis that picked up passengers as if they were buses and motor cycles that picked up passengers as if they were taxis, two radio interviews, delivery of a public lecture on translation and journalism, preaching engagements, and a wide variety of churches.

One of these churches was in a rural area. Sodalo had asked someone to identify the most pagan village within a couple of hours drive from the city. They are animists ('don't let them see you taking photos of their idols'). Sodalo has planted a church there that now has about 30 members.

So the trainees have gone back to their working routines in each of their respective countries. How will they do their work differently now, as a result of this training?

They will now be able to survey speech communities in a more useful way, with less preconceived ideas about, for example, the difference between a language and a dialect. They will have more awareness and understanding of linguistic differences in various speech communities. They will be more alert to the common pitfalls of translating the various figures of speech that occur in Biblical text and Bible stories, and now know how to work with mother-tongue speakers to find suitable alternative expressions in their languages. They have a better appreciation of the cultural context of the Bible, which they can communicate to their language helpers. They can now record their locations with a GPS (for later mapping), record their programming information in GRN's database, and more effectively use the specialised recording equipment that has been provided to them.

While we in Australia are relaxing in the evenings, and sleeping during the night, several teams of GRN personnel are busy recording and distributing God's Word right across West Africa. These dedicated men and women live in countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Cameroon.

Sometimes these workers cross other borders throughout Africa in order to survey or record new languages or distribute new recordings.

A training program like this is not cheap to run. However the benefits to all these GRN staff members is great indeed. It was the most economical way to train them all in a short space of time. And of course the benefit doesn't stop there. It means that future recordings done across all of West Africa can now be much better quality, both in terms of audio quality and in terms of translational fidelity and integrity. This means the message of Jesus can be communicated in a much clearer way, which in turn greatly increases the chances of positive responses to the gospel messages that GRN is providing for this needy continent. Thanks to all those who supported this venture in prayer and finances.

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