Language research in India

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This is an extract from a language survey by one of our Indian recordists. It shows some of the challenges faced in language research, and also the benefits. The end result of this survey was a plan to record a dozen languages and dialects of GARHWALI, RONGBA, KUMAUONI and BUKSA over the next 2 years.

In 1985, I went to many parts of Himalayan Hills for a special outreach programme. In those days much of the present days facilities were not available. Road communication was not so good. Majority of the people were illiterate. But we were equipped to preach the gospel and so tried to share the love of God to the local people in their own language. We distributed 11 boxes (may be a thousand or so number of sets) of gramophone records in GARHWALI and HINDI languages for our outreach that was really a great means to reach those people.

After 20 years when I went to the same area I was thrilled. There are big changes I noticed everywhere. Road and telecommunications are developed, and education level has reached high. The seed we sown in those days through gramophone records, brought some fruits (as many were interested to know more about Jesus Christ and made contacts with the Christian workers after we left the area).

A local pastor received me with joy. While sharing and discussing about recording, I brought out our old recordings and played before him. I noticed that some of his family members were bubbling with joy. "Oh it is our fathers voice, here uncle J is preaching, these songs are sung by uncle G" they said. During evaluation of these cassettes a man told me "when I was about eight years old your team came and did these recordings. My father was the one to help these recordings, and he is now 82 years old. The languages used in these cassettes are not pure, so it will be good if you can make new recordings. Moreover, these recordings were used a lot in earlier days and it was the only recording available, even there were no secular records in our language". Since he is from that area he has a burden to reach the people there and so he is willing to assist the new recordings.

Next day I left for Uttarkashi, a pilgrim place of Hindus from where devotees go to Gangotri and Gomukh (the source of river Ganges). I searched for local believers. It's an area where people didn't tolerate the people from other faith, but in 1991 the earth shook violently due to earthquake and a huge mountain named Varunabat cracked on its four side. Since then it is opened as people started to fear. Some of the families felt the need of a strongest God who can save their lives and they came to the Lord. I shared about our ministry and showed the Good News chart to a pastor. He told "like this materials is really useful to teach the student, but we don't get such in this area. In fact we are living in most interior part and no visitor comes to us. I have many good contacts from this locality and I can help your recording project".

In Uttarkashi district there is a small village called Dunda. In this village a tribal community is living for hundreds of years known as RONGBA. Someone said that some of their religious practices are much similar to Athenians. They worship to an unknown God. They make alters on the wayside and keep stones or wood pieces on it, and whoever of that community passes through that road must keep the same. So there are many of such alters are found in the forest still today. They speak a language known as RONGBA, which is a mix language of GARHWALI and Bhutia (Tibetans). I talked with few from that community and came to know that about 2000 (about 500 families) people speak that language. There might be some other villages which is not known to them use this language.

After completing the survey in Tehri Garhwal hills, I reached to Powri Garhwal hills. A brother gave me a lot of information about the languages spoken in his region. I gave him our cassettes, which was recorded long back. He and his family sat together and listened, and appreciated our work. Still he felt that we should have another set of new recordings as the language is mixed and not up to the mark as today people have more access for better recordings. He advised to record two different GARHWALIs from that region.

It is really spiritual battle specially when you want to work in a pilgrimage place. There are lots of satanic works practiced here. Please pray that the Lord's glory may cover there so that we can work easily.