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Archive for May, 2013

I arrived home safely late on Wed night. I wasn’t able to finish up all the work on the linguistics course, but at least I was able to get all the re-recording done. I’m trying to set the course up so that it can function without me. It has to be that way if students are to have the flexibility of taking the course as their schedule allows. And I don’t want to be grading homework throughout the year in the various places in the world wherever I’ll be at the time they take it. But that requires a lot of work to turn short answer and essay questions on homework, quizzes, and tests, so that a non-linguistics person could grade it. I finished transforming the quizzes, and am almost finished with the two tests. The homework, though, continues to loom large, because it’s the only one of the three that has absolutely no matching or multiple choice yet. Lots of transforming to do!

I praise the Lord for keeping me safe as I traveled on Wed. I did the dreaded thing of going straight into Chicago in the midst of rush hour traffic, but somehow I survived!

The interns seem to have gotten off to a good start. The male intern is now staying at my house, but I’ll have all three over tomorrow to hang out and do yardwork. Gotta do work before pleasure!

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I guess my feeling of accomplishment is not quite as great as it was when I finished a semester-long course at BJU, but I’m still very relieved to be done. It was a pretty grueling two weeks. But I finished most of the work on Thursday afternoon, and was then able to take a nap and then enjoy some relaxing time on my birthday. I also got to celebrate my birthday with friends in Rockford, IL, last night. The students’ evaluations of the course were positive, so I would say that the Lord gave me a successful course. Two students were in the D category going into the final, but were able to pull it up at the end, thanks partly to my mercy in the case of one.

Now I have 2.5 days of work to prepare the video form of the course. Pray for wisdom as I navigate through these new waters. I’ve never put a course into video format, so it takes some real thought to figure out how to make this course as independent of me in the future (so the students don’t have to depend on my schedule to proctor the course… and so I don’t have too much extra work in the future). I don’t think I can remove myself totally from the course, since I will need to grade the less-objective stuff on the tests, but I need to make most of it as objective as possible.

I’ll be driving back home on Wed, stopping along the way to see high school friends in Chicago (and who pray for me and have children who pray for me!). I’ll hit the ground running on Thurs, as I have three interns in my department who will be waiting for me. One will be staying at my house beginning on Thurs. Pray that the Lord would give me and the interns wisdom so that we can make the experience as profitable for them and us as possible. They will be at the office for three weeks and then in India for three weeks.

My next major project is to prepare for a session at BMM’s annual conference in early July. I’ll be doing a session entitled, “Speaking to the Heart: Missionary Linguistics and Bible translation.” I want to touch on 2 things in my 50-minute session: sounding like a national, and realizing the importance of vernacular translations. Regarding the former, I want to give the missionaries some practical help on how to do better in their phonetics with majority and minority languages. I plan on making at least some mention of the program at BJU, so maybe you could send me some brochures (the conference is in early July). Pray for wisdom as I prepare.

Regarding the second, I want to make sure missionaries don’t minimize the importance of vernacular translations, focusing instead on the majority or trade languages, thinking that such translations are sufficient for all. I’ve heard at least one missionary do just that, and she said it right in our BI office with many of us around!

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Life at this time of year in Watertown, WI, requires you prepare for anything between 30 and 80 degrees. Last night it actually got below freezing, but by Tuesday it should be up around 80. Kinda hard to pack for that variation in weather!

This year’s class has been less stressful than last year’s, but it hasn’t been a whole lot easier as far as workload. I’m thankful that I have only 9 students last year instead of 21, if I look at it only from a workload perspective. But on the other hand, the more students the better! Having only 9 students, though, means I spend less time on grading and more time on lecture preparation. Last week I was basically doing the latter while eating breakfast in the morning and throughout the afternoon and evening hours after the morning class times. Of course, I also have to keep up with my other BI responsibilities, which includes preparing for one of my current Maranatha students to begin his internship with us next week. I’ve also had to do a conference call with a current consultant about her change in situation since she’s getting married in June, and then a second conference call with another consultant whose family situation will require him to be based in Grand Rapids instead of Chad, Africa. Talk about a change in living situation!

As I worked through my lectures on morphology and syntax last year, I was once again amazed at the complexity of human languages, which God created. We discussed “modality” in one of the lectures. That has to do with the speaker’s commitment to or belief in the proposition he/she is stating. In English we have to indicate this by adding words: “I know that such and such…,” “I believe that such and such…”, “I think that such and such…”, etc. But in some languages you actually mark it in the verb itself. In other words, there’s a part (morpheme) of the verb that actually signals what the speaker believes about his/her proposition. Amazing! I explained that in those languages the speaker doesn’t really have the option of whether or not he/she wants to say what his/her commitment level is. In English we have that option because our language doesn’t require it by the morphology of the verb. So, one student asked if this means that speakers of these languages that mark modality are more honest than those of us who use languages that don’t mark it. I assured them that they probably weren’t. Just because their language marks it doesn’t mean they have to be honest. They could give a marking that doesn’t actually reflect the truth of their perspective. Even in English, we could say “I know that such and such…” even when we aren’t actually 100% sure of such and such.

We also talked about “evidentiality” marking. This has to do with how you received the information you are speaking about: whether you got the information directly or whether you heard it through hearsay. Boy, it sure would clear up some of our communications if we could specify this in our sentences!

Last week was more difficult for me since I had to have about 20 hours of lecture material read to go. This week is easier since I am giving exams for 2 of the 5 days. So, that leaves me only 3 days in which to lecture. I have already finished about half of that material. Keep praying for this experience to be profitable for both me and the students. God is blessing already!

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These are the two main topics on my mind this week: linguistics and Bible book outlines. I finished the outlines just yesterday. The Darlong, a language group in India for whom we helping produce a Bible, asked us about a year ago if they could have book outlines of all 66 books of the Bible. I was quite overwhelmed by the request, because I knew it required a lot of work to produce the outlines for them to translate into Darlong. But then they decided they didn’t want them afterall, so I breathed a sigh of relief. But then a few months ago they renewed their request! Thankfully, they said they would be satisfied with only high-level outlines, but even this requires a great deal of work, since it involves making 66 of them!

I told them I would agree to do it only if I could find an easy means by which I could produce the outlines; in other words, I couldn’t do it if it required original analysis of all 66 books! The Lord gave me an idea to check with my contacts down in Greenville, SC, and quickly I was reminded that my sending church, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, had gone through all 66 books in Sunday school one year in a survey manner. Well, the church agreed to share all the teaching notes with me. This proved to be an invaluable resource! Now, the transfer wasn’t automatic and easy, since not every book’s lecture had an outline that I could use (some cited published works and others had wording that was too hard to use for our situation). But for most I could find something that could be just simply adapted here and there. In every case I got quick information that helped me know what to say about the book. Now all the outlines are being passed through another consultant for review and proofreading, and by the end of next week, they will all be in the hands of the Darlong for translating. What a relief to have that project behind me!

The Darlong are quite eager to get their Bibles. Many believers have already put their orders in and pre-paid. The Read-and-Review Committee is working from 6:30 AM to 10:00 PM each day as they work through the final read-throughs. Lord willing, we’ll get it into the hands of our publishing department in a few months, and then it can be printed and dedicated next year.

The other major issue on my plate these past few weeks has been preparing to teach the second half of the Basic Linguistics course that I started teaching at Maranatha last year. Last year I taught about phonetics & phonology (the sound units of language) and pragmatics (meaning of utterances in real-life settings). This year I’ll be teaching on morphology (formation of words), syntax (ordering of words in a sentence), and semantics (the meaning of words, phrases, and sentences). I look forward to getting back over there! We have already seen the Lord bless this opportunity, because one of my students will be an intern with us this summer. Another wants to do it next year or the year after, and a third will probably also head our way eventually. Praise the Lord! Pray for a productive time with the students these next two weeks so that I can help them prepare to be good language learners and analyzers.

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