Northern Translation Brief: 2017 Mother Tongue Translator (MTT) Workshop

Our Dear Partners,

Ever since First Nations representatives and church leaders met with us in Prince Albert in June of 2014, we have been responding to their priorities identified for the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative. One of these priorities was to coordinate a series of Mother Tongue Translator (MTT) Workshops to help the speakers of First Nations languages acquire the skills that they need to take the lead in their own Bible Translation and community language development projects.

We planned and coordinated the 2017 Mother Tongue Translator (MTT) Workshop at the Guelph Bible Conference Centre from April 9th to the 14th. Speakers of First Nations languages from three different language communities were able to come to the workshop this year.

Travel Delays and Challenges

In the weeks leading up to the workshop, we had also planned an additional translation checking session for the Oji-Cree translation team: They were to come to southern Ontario the week before the workshop and gather at our home in Windham Centre with the translation consultant (Meg Billingsley) and one of the new Bible Translation facilitation teams (Matthew & Caitlin Windsor). However, a relative of one of the Oji-Cree translators passed away that week, so they were unable to come down early.

With Matthew & Caitlin at Simcoe Immanuel CRC church before the workshop

We are grateful for all the offers of food, lodging and assistance that we received from our church family in preparation for this checking session, and even though it did not work out–we are happy that the Oji-Cree team was able to come to the workshop itself anyway. The translation team and the consultant are making alternate arrangements so that they can work through the scripture checking that they had planned.

Most of the Naskapi team had hoped to leave their community of Kawawachikamach by plane the Friday before the workshop–but a snowstorm on April 7th cancelled their flight. They were eventually able to rebook on Monday, the first day of the workshop, and arrived safe and sound (but tired!) a 1:30 AM Tuesday morning!

Silas Nabinicaboo

Silas, the senior translator for the Naskapi team, had to cancel his attendance at the workshop this year–while he was en-route, his mother Susie had heart problems and was flown out of the community to the hospital in Quebec City, where she eventually underwent an operation for a pacemaker. Silas stayed by her side rather than coming to the workshop.

So, of the 15 registered First Nations participants, 14 were finally able to come.

Participants

Coming for the first time were two experienced James Bay Cree translators from the Mistissini Lake Quebec community, Mary-Jane Petawabano and Juliette Neeposh. They had worked on the translation of the New Testament in their language and came to find out about starting to translate the Old Testament too.

Mary Jane Petawabano and Juliette Neeposh, from Mistissini Lake, Quebec

The Kingfisher Lake Oji-Cree community sent five of their Bible translators, who continue to work on their new translation of the Gospels and Epistles for the Sunday Lectionary readings. Four of their translators, Ruth Kitcheksik, Jessie Atlookan, Zipporah Mamakwa, and Dominick Beardy had already been to previous workshops. They brought with them a new member of their team, Saloma Sainnawap, who came to this translator workshop for the first time. Two other members of the Oji-Cree translation team who had attended previously had to stay behind at Kingfisher Lake: Ruth Morris and Theresa Sainnawap.

Jessie Atlookan, Saloma Sainnawap, Zipporah Mamakwa, Ruth Kitchekesik and Dominick Beardy from Kingfisher Lake, Ontario

The Naskapi language community of Kawawachikamach sent translators and language personnel from three of their community organizations: The Naskapi School sent Naskapi language teacher Seasi Swappie, and the Naskapi Nation sent their lead translator George Guanish and the editor of the Naskapi newspaper “Naskapi Tipachimoon”, Isaac Einish. This was Isaac’s first time at a translator workshop outside his community.

Isaac Einish, Seasi Swappie & George Guanish from Kawawachikamach Quebec

The Naskapi Development Corporation (NDC), which is continuing work on the Naskapi Old Testament translation, sent four participants: Tshiueten Vachon, Amanda Swappie, Kabimbetas Noah Mokoush and the NDC administrative director, Ruby Sandy-Robinson. As noted earlier, their senior translator Silas Nabinicaboo was unable to attend.

Naskapi team working together

Program

Like in previous years, the program of the workshop was crafted to meet Bible translation training needs of the First Nations translators. Since this was the third workshop, and many of the participants had been to similar workshops in the past, just a brief time on the first day was spent doing review, so that all the new participants could find their way alongside the more experienced ones.

“Bible Translation Principles” and “Bible Translation Basics”

The core curriculum was from the translation textbook “Bible Translation Basics: Communicating Scripture in a Relevant Way” by Harriet Hill. We have used this book since 2015, and we are slowly working through it with plenty of review at a pace that can be followed by the translators. We are also using more conventional translation training materials, such as “Bible Translation: an introductory course in translation principles” by Katy Barnwell, and other materials. We also featured a special topic again this year taught by Steve Kempf, an international translation consultant, on “Translating in the book of Proverbs”.

Steve Kempf on Proverbs

We also focused on a range of other practical topics, including the use of cell-phone technology for scripture engagement, participatory methods for domains of language use in a community, and the important role of oral story telling in presenting the message of the Bible, and teaching skills to use computer and software tools to help with understanding the Bible’s message better, and to help with the translation work.

Staff

Besides Bill and Norma Jean who coordinated the workshop and taught some of the lesson modules, we were privileged to have many other teaching staff on hand this year from a wide range of experience and background.

As noted above Steve Kempf was with us on Tuesday and Thursday for the focus on translating Proverbs. We were also assisted by translation consultant Ruth Heeg, Canada Institute of Linguistics (CanIL) professor Jeff Green from Tyndale University College, and Canadian Bible Society (CBS) director of scripture translations Myles Leitch, all of whom taught lessons in sequence from Bible Translation Basics.

Jeff Green with Ruth Kitchekesik and Dominick Beardy from Kingfisher Lake

We were also very pleased to have the following “Next Generation” members of the team on the teaching staff this year: Alice & Martin Reed, currently serving their in-field internship with the Naskapi translation project; Matthew & Caitlin Windsor, also preparing to serve as Bible translation facilitators to First Nations communities, and Meg Billingsley, translation consultant-in-training working in Cree projects.

Meg Billingsley’s teaching module

Alice Reed (standing, right) with the Naskapi translation team

Matt Windsor’s teaching module

Catherine Aldred-Shull’s presentation

Canadian Bible Society translation officer-in-training Catherine Aldred-Shull was also on hand to demonstrate a Cree Bible reading cell phone app and present her research on oral storytelling as it relates to Bible translation.

Terri Scruggs, Ruth Heeg, Liesel Bartlett

Wycliffe Canada projects manager Terri Scruggs was with us for the entire week and presented a compelling module to the translators on the importance of sharing how the translated scriptures are having a positive influence in their own First Nations language communities, and Wycliffe translation facilitators Rod & Liesel Bartlett guided the participants in learning to craft chronological Bible stories in their own language. Rod & Liesel have served for many years working with the James Bay Cree First Nations communities in Quebec, helping guide two separate New Testament translations to completion–one in James Bay Cree (southern or inland dialect, 2001) and one in the northern dialect of James Bay Cree, just published by the Bible Society at the end of 2016. The staff and participants took time to praise God and celebrate His faithfulness to the James Bay Cree communities during the workshop.

Juliette Neeposh, Rod & Liesel Bartlett, Mary Jane Petawabano, Ruth Heeg

Guests

We were pleased and honoured again this year to have a visit from the National Indigenous Bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada, Mark MacDonald. He came to address the participants and to encourage them in their work of bringing the message of the scriptures to their own language communities. He reminded us again that the message of the Gospel is the one thing that the more it is translated, the more we as the Body of Christ gain and know of the love of God.

Mark MacDonald encouraging the translation teams

Esther Wesley, the coordinator of the Anglican Healing Fund along with Nancy Hurn, the archivist of the Anglican Church of Canada were also on hand to meet and encourage the First Nations participants.

Elaine Bombay, a member of the Wycliffe News Network photojournalism team, served the workshop by being on hand Monday and Thursday to interact with participants, hear their stories and take wonderful photographs, many of which are featured here in this article. Thank you for these pictures, Elaine!

Colin & Dot Suggett, Wycliffe Canada team currently serving in Burkina Faso, was on hand to observe and get to know the First Nations participants–they are seeking the Lord’s direction for how they might contribute to the Bible translation movement among First Nations. Also on hand was Ben Wukasch, Wycliffe Canada candidate, Jeff Westlake, and Jack & Joann Koetsier, Wycliffe Canada partners.

Colin & Dot Suggett, Ben Wukasch

Also again this year Wycliffe Canada Korean Diaspora Church Connections 한인 디아스포라 교회 협력 team brought a group representing the Korean church, who continue to pray for, encourage and assist their First Nations brothers and sisters to have better access to the scriptures in their own languages. This year the First Nations participants were invited to pray for the needs of the Korean church. Many of the First Nations participants shared how blessed they were to reconnect with their Korean friends. Having guests attend the workshop is a good way for relationships to develop within the Body of Christ, since Bible translation remains the responsibility of the whole church (Kirk Franklin 2008)

Visitors from the Korean Diaspora Church Connections Team

Participant Evaluations

On Friday, the last day of the workshop, we took some time to reflect and evaluate the
workshop program, and all the participants provided feedback for the organizers to consider for the next workshop. Here is a sampling of some of the participants’ comments:

What was something new that you learned during this workshop?

“…Translating Proverbs.”
“…How to make my translation relevant to my community.”
“…How to record and edit audio using my laptop–really neat!”
“…Implicit and Explicit information in translation.”

What did you particularly like about this workshop?

“…The hands-on activities on language use within our communities.”
“…All the facilitators.”
“…I liked participating in small groups.”
“…Talking about Jesus.”
“…Teamwork, involvement in tasks.”
“…The sense of community and fellowship with other First Nations and ethnicities.”

What were the best aspects of the workshop?

“…When we got to work together.”
“…Hearing testimonies from experienced First Nations translators”
“…Hearing reading and singing in our languages.”
“…I felt like I fit in and that people were eager to help us, and that we were listened to.”
“…how everything was connected in the way the workshop was taught.”
“…being encouraged by one another.”

God continues to be at work bringing His message to His people in their own languages. We are so grateful that you can be a part of this work with us. Thank you for your prayers and support for this workshop and for the wonderful things God continues to do in the lives of our First Nations friends.

Serving with you,

Bill and Norma Jean

Alice & Martin Reed, Matthew & Caitlin Windsor

Consider becoming more involved and supporting this work by visiting these websites:

In the USA: https://www.wycliffe.org/partner/Jancewicz

In Canada: http://www.wycliffe.ca/m?Jancewicz

 

 

 

One thought on “Northern Translation Brief: 2017 Mother Tongue Translator (MTT) Workshop

  1. Brilliant – praise God! A privilege to pray for this, and inspiring to see how God brought so many diverse members of the Body together and worked despite the many challenges the workshop faced.

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