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Posts Tagged ‘computers’

My assignment in early December was to introduce our Chad translators to computers and show them how to use Paratext, a powerful Bible translation program developed by two other Bible societies. We were finally bringing these translators into the 21st century! Why didn’t we do it sooner? Two main reasons: 1) they didn’t have any electricity in their villages, 2) we didn’t have a translation software with a French interface to give them. The first problem was solved by the advent of solar power, and the second problem was solved when Paratext, which now has a French interface, began to be distributed for free. Thus, these translators, who had been using simple electronic keyboards, could now gain access to powerful resources that would improve the quality of their work and reduce the time needed to complete the translation (one of our NT’s has taken 4 years to get it ready for printing, but many of the errors being caught in this last stage could be identified automatically by Paratext).

As I prepared for this assignment, I grew to understand how little the translators knew about computers. I have been exposed to them and have been using them since the 90’s (or even before), but they probably haven’t seen them too much in their lives, nor have they hardly ever used them. I remember working with one team in 2013, using a new computer that our supporting church in Singapore, had provided. The translator moved the mouse as if it were stuck in molasses–very slowly. How could I not only introduce them to computers but also teach them how to use Paratext in only two weeks? And how would I be able to do so in French?

I quickly realized I needed to keep a database of computer terms in French. I ended up collecting 177 terms! In addition, I knew I needed to write a manual so that the translators could refer back to it after I left Chad. At first, I thought I could find something that had already been developed. A co-worker trained translators in Central African Republic, so I thought her material would fit my need. But as I reviewed it, I realized it wasn’t basic enough, and it didn’t fit my style of teaching. Also, it wasn’t as comprehensive as I wanted it to be. I asked a Paratext expert in another organization, who trained a group of us at BI in Paratext in September, and he sent over a set of manuals all translated into French. But as I reviewed that material, I realized it fit their organization’s translation process, but not ours. So, the conclusion was that I needed to write my own manual! That presented quite a burden for me!

But at that point I felt like I hardly knew Paratext well. I had been using it with two different projects, but I was only using the basic tools. Thankfully, a co-worker gave us some training in August, and then in God’s wonderful providence, He connected us to an expert, who lives basically just down the street from BI. We gathered 9-10 of us at the office so he could give us two days of advanced training. I still didn’t know some of the basic tools, but at least I was no longer intimidated by the program. By God’s grace, I put together a 40-page manual in French, with everything checked by a native French speaker (who so wonderfully made himself available to help me throughout the writing process). I also wrote 10 pages of material about basic computer skills. Thank God, He helped my prep time in Ukraine to be quite productive! I was ready to go to Chad!

I arrived in Chad on Nov 30, but Dec 1 was their independence day holiday. The complication there was that I had to register my arrival at the police station, but they were closed that Friday because of the holiday. We tried on Saturday but to no avail. I just had to be content with spending the weekend at the capital, and with the training starting one day late. I actually welcomed the opportunity to rest and to get a little more work done. When I talked on the phone to a co-worker (Anna Beth Wivell), who would help me with the training, it became apparent that I needed to write more material to add to the manual. She had experienced some serious challenges with a team, who had already started using Paratext, so I realized I needed to write material to help the other teams avoid the same challenges (thank God that one team went through these things first and not all 5 teams together!). So, I wrote 5 more pages, and got those checked by my friend in France. I sent it down to Anna Beth, and she got the manuals printed on Monday.

While in the capital that weekend, I got to meet three key individuals, so clearly God had other reasons to keep me up there. I met a language assessment specialist, who can help us find new projects. At church Sunday, I met a linguistics professor, and after church a group of us got to know a medical doctor who has a heart to revive the Tumag situation (this group has stalled in their OT translation work). I also got to preach to almost 700 people at that church, which has three of my former students from my Cameroon days as pastors. I’m also thankful that I got to see a fourth student too, and the son of a fifth student helped me greatly by taking me around to restaurants on his motorcycle (and loaned me his router for my stay in Chad).

We finally got to head south on the bus at 10:30 am on Monday. It was an arduous 16-hour bus ride. The bus is actually pretty comfortable, but spending that many hours bouncing down a deteriorating paved road while listening to Arabic music is not too much fun. Plus, they make only very brief stops, so we end up being hungry most of the trip (not common for Americans but quite common for Chadians).

I got a few hours of sleep that night, and then started into the training at 10 am the next morning. God gave strength to get through the whole day even without taking a nap, but that evening a sickness started setting in. I had very little appetite. By the next day¬† diarrhea started. I’m not sure if it was the food we ate at the church on Sunday, or what we had at the roadside cafe on Monday, or what I ate with the translators on Tuesday. But something got me! But thankfully, though it made me feel pretty miserable, it didn’t keep me from teaching each day. And since I had already done the prep work before the training, I could just focus on resting each evening (but also preparing a devotional each night for the next day).

2017.12 Paratext training (17)

There were 5 teams present–the team’s typist and a the main translator. The BI Chad administrator was also there to learn. The typist, as I said above, was familiar with the electronic keyboard they have been using, so that was helpful. But they weren’t using the French keyboard or the Chadian keyboard (which require special key mappings to go with the English keyboard on the computers). I wish the keyboard was in French! I also wish a co-worker had put the French version of Windows and other software on the computers. Somehow he misunderstood the situation in Chad, so on 4 of the computers, there was only English interfaces and programs. That was an unavoidable complexity that added to the challenge! (Sometime next year, they’ll get French programs to fix this problem.)

2017.12 Paratext training (9)

I’m thankful that the translators were ready with great interest! They were eager to enter into the 21st century! They showed no signs of frustration or despair, but they were quite slow in learning the tasks. There were 3 of us (Anna Beth and a translator who’s already been using Paratext) who would have to help each team step by step as I taught new tasks. But it seems that they were picking up on the training–I hope! And we finished in 8 days! They were quite thankful to be able to go home one day early, and I was glad to have one day to write my reports and to get caught up on work before my vacation started on the following Monday.

2017.12 Paratext training (1)

The translators are rarely able to gather into one room like that (the last time was in 2012 when they got additional translator training), so I hope the two weeks was an encouraging time for them. I tried to encourage them through the devotions each morning.

While I was there, the Lord also helped me through some administrative challenges involving sensitive personnel issues. I met with the administrative council of BI’s Chad affiliate the Saturday during my stay there, and we successfully worked through 4 challenging issues: redirecting one candidate for translation consultant toward literacy coordinator (a more urgent need), redirecting our considerations away from another man who is not qualified for the literacy coordinator position, thinking through complex issues regarding a second candidate for translation consultant, and charting out end goals for bringing our 5 OT projects to completion. Oh, and I may have found a good solution to our literacy needs in Central African Republic.

What a productive trip I had, even in spite of the sickness! Thankfully, the sickness went away by the second Tuesday, thanks to the help of a fellow missionary and her antibiotics. Praise God for strength, wisdom, and grace throughout the trip!

Back in Ukraine, my wife had her struggles with Eliyas, who doesn’t know how to sleep through the night. Plus, she couldn’t rely on others to help, since they had to work most days. So, she was almost totally occupied with baby duties–but since he brings her (and me) so much joy, she wasn’t struggling terribly. She shared some of her joys with me through texting, and once we were even able to talk on the phone through Skype. But otherwise, we had to limit our communication, since Internet in Chad is so expensive. But I got to see pictures of him, including his sitting on his own for the first time.

2017.12 Ukraine (7)

 

 

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