Where’s the Small Jerusalem?

During my course in Gloucester, we covered a course called “Discourse Analysis”. This was essentially a study of how languages say what they mean, and how different languages can say the same thing different ways (and sometimes mean different things from the same thing!).

Let me explain with some examples …

 

One of my teachers has worked in Mexico.
In one of the languages she works with, there isn’t a separate word for village and city. So to describe Jerusalem, they thought they’d try a phrase “big village Jerusalem”, to emphasise that Jerusalem wasn’t a small village.

However, when looking at the translation with mother-tongue translators, the translators genuinely wanted to know, “Oh, where’s the small village Jerusalem?”.

In their language, if you say there is a “big Jerusalem”, then that necessitates that there is also a “small Jerusalem”!!

 

In English, adjectives can be used either to describe, or to differentiate:

If you say, “Oh, I like those red shoes”, it does not necessarily mean that you don’t like the other not red shoes. You could just be giving more descriptive detail to the shoes.

But, if you say, “The blue bin gets collected today”, you might mean that today it is the blue bin, and not the black bin, that gets collected.

 

Back to the language in Mexico:

This discovery had huge implications for Bible Translation!
Consider the following phrases, which in English we might read without thinking:

‘The Good News about Jesus’ – this would mean there was also bad news about Jesus!

‘This is my son, whom I love’ – this would mean God also had a son whom he didn’t love!

‘The one true God’ – is there also a not true God?!

‘He is the God who saves’ – i.e. as opposed to the God who doesn’t save …!

 

Wow! I was completely amazed at all the examples we were discussing, and the implications if this hadn’t been discovered!

It turned out that the translators had misunderstood parts of the Spanish Bible they had read, because they were not aware that Spanish (like English) could use adjectives and relative clauses just to describe.

 

I don’t think this is the case for the languages I work with in Tanzania … but it goes to show how careful we need to be to check things are understood in the correct way.

Just one more reason why Linguistics is an essential part of Bible Translation!

The Same but Different.

Living back in the UK, I do many of the same things as I did in Tanzania, but it’s also very different.

I sleep in a bed, but with multiple blankets rather than a mosquito net.

bedtz beduk

 

 

 

 

 

I get my water from a tap, but I don’t have to filter it before drinking it.

watertz2 watertz1 wateruk

 

 

 

 

 

 

I eat beans, but most often from a tin, and I don’t have to sort and clean them.

beanstz2 beansuk

 

 

 

 

I eat fruit, but apples and pears, rather than guava and passion fruit.

fruittz2 fruituk

 

 

 

 

I enjoy flowers when I walk through town, but crocuses, snowdrops and daffodils, rather than bougainvillea.

flowerstz flowersuk1 flowersuk2

 

 

 

 

I use money, but take a lot fewer notes out of the cash-point.

moneytz moneyuk

 

 

 

 

I have windows, but no mesh or bars.

windowtz windowuk2

 

 

 

 

 

 

I still walk to get around town, but I have had to get used to very different footwear.

feettz feetuk

 

 

 

 

Even if everything else is different, at least I still worship and serve the same God, no matter where I am!


25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,

    and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
    and they will be discarded.
27 But you remain the same,
    and your years will never end.
(Psalm 102)

Back in UK, FAQs

Here are some common questions that I’ve been asked since returning to the UK, which I included in my January newsletter.

So, where are you now?
As of the beginning of January, I am based in Gloucester. I am studying at Redcliffe College, finishing off a Masters (which I started before going to Tanzania). The course is about linguistics, and it is taught by Wycliffe staff.

img_20170120_131710302

This is the beautiful view, from one of my classrooms, of Gloucester cathedral.

How long will you be in the UK?
I plan to be based in the UK for about a year, until I have finished the thesis stage of the Masters.

Do you still need financial support?
Yes, I am still a member of Wycliffe, but my assignment has changed for this year from working in Tanzania to completing a study programme relevant to my work.

Will you still be sending out newsletters this year?
Yes! I would like to keep you involved with my work and study, and I need your prayers and support just as much now as when I was in Tanzania.

Will you be continuing work in Tanzania later on?
Yes, I hope and plan to return to Musoma after finishing my studies, to continue with much the same work as before.

What’s the best thing about being back in England?
Not having ants in my food, clothes, shower, hair, bed, …! And of course, seeing friends and family again!

An Unusual Piece of Luggage.

I shall be returning to the UK for study leave at the end of this week, and I shall be taking a domestic flight within Tanzania.

A particular flight company permits an unusual piece of luggage when one is flying from Mwanza (which is on the shore of Lake Victoria):

bucket_of_fishfastjet-copy

Yes, you have read correctly. A bucket of fish is a permitted piece of luggage from Mwanza to Dar es Salaam.

Apparently, the local fish from Lake Victoria is so good that it is very common for people to want to take some with them.

Here is some photographic evidence from my last flight to Dar:

img_20160627_134337014

Sadly, I’m not sure my international flight would allow such an unusual piece of luggage. Otherwise, I might have dared to give some rather different Christmas presents this year …

What’s the strangest thing you have ever seen on an airport luggage belt? Or have you ever tried to fly with an unusual piece of luggage?

I’d also appreciate your prayers for safe flights home at the end of this week – thank you!

Food fit for a Monkey? Banana Chutney!

Sorry, there are no monkeys in this blog post. (Though there often are some playing on the roof of my office!)

I thought I would share with you one of my favourite recipes: banana chutney. It’s incredibly easy, delicious, and goes with anything!

bananas(small).jpg

  • Ingredients:
    4 cups mashed bananas (1 cup is 2 1/2 large Tanzanian bananas, or 5 mini Tanzanian bananas … I can’t remember how big bananas are in the UK!)
    1 cup chopped onion
    1 cup vinegar
    1 cup sugar

banana-chutney (small).jpg

  • Mix it all together.
  • Boil (and stir a little) for 3 minutes.
  • Let it cool, then add:
    2+ tsp curry powder
    2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • Enjoy!

It can be frozen, or keeps in the fridge for at least 10 days.

Learning from Perelandra. Part II

This is a longer section from ‘Perelandra’ (book two of C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy), which challenged me on a number of topics, especially my response when circumstances don’t turn out as I had expected or hoped.


‘ [The Lady speaking:] “But how can one wish any of those waves not to reach us which Maledil is rolling towards us?”
Against his better judgement, Ransom found himself goaded into an argument.
“But even you,” he said, “when you first saw me, I know you were expecting and hoping that I was the King. When you found I was not, your face changed. Was that event not unwelcome?”

[The Lady speaking:] “I have been so young until this moment, that all my life now seems to have been a kind of sleep. I have thought that I was being carried, and behold, I was walking.” Ransom asked her what she meant.
“What you have made me see,” answered the Lady, “is as plain as the sky, but I never saw it before. Yet it has happened every day. One goes into the forest to pick food and already the thought of one fruit rather than another has grown in one’s mind. Then, it may be, one finds a different fruit and not the fruit one thought of. One joy was expected and another given. But this I never noticed before – that at the very moment of the finding there is in the mind a kind of thrusting back, or setting aside. The picture of the fruit you have not found is still, for a moment, before you. And if you wished – if it were possible to wish –  you could send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got. You could refuse the real good; you could make the real fruit taste insipid by thinking of the other.”

“…you could send your soul after the good you had expected,
instead of turning it to the good you had got.
You could refuse the real good;
you could make the real fruit taste insipid by thinking of the other.”


[the Lady speaking:] “…the first picture does stay in the mind quite a long time – many beats of the heart – after the other good has come. And this, O Piebald, is the glory and the wonder you have made me see, that it is I, I myself, who turn from the good expected to the given good. Out of my own heart I do it. One can conceive of a heart which did not: which clung to the good it had first thought of and turned the good which it was given into no good.”‘


 

Is there a good you have been expecting which hasn’t come? Have circumstances turned out differently than expected?

Don’t cling to the expected good and miss the good that God has for you now.

What good has God given to you which you never would have expected?

(These questions are as much for me as for anyone else reading this. And if you have never read Perelandra before, why don’t you give it a try?)

Learning from Perelandra.

I just finished reading C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy; if you haven’t ever read it, I can highly recommend it! My favourite by far was the second book, ‘Perelandra’, partly because of the beautiful, almost poetic, prose throughout the book. Also, there were a number of passages that were very thought-provoking or illuminating.

I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite parts:

‘ “Don’t imagine I’ve been selected to go to Perelandra because I’m anyone in particular. One can never see, or not until long afterwards, why any one was selected for any job. And when one does, it is usually some reason that leaves no room for vanity. Certainly it is never for what the man himself would have regarded as his chief qualifications…” ‘

 

‘Sleep came like a fruit which falls into the hand almost before you have touched the stem.’

 

‘But he was restrained by the same sort of feeling which had restrained him over-night from tasting a second gourd. He had always disliked the people who encored a favourite air in the opera – “That just spoils it” had been his comment. But this now appeared to him as a principle of far wider application and deeper moment. This itch to have things over again, as if life were a film that could be unrolled twice or even made to work backwards… was it possibly the root of all evil? No: of course the love of money was called that. But money itself – perhaps one valued it chiefly as a defence against chance, a security for being able to have things over again, a means of arresting the unrolling of the film.’

 

There is another longer section that challenged me, but it requires some explanation. There’ll have to be a Part II of this post!

 

The Hat Game.

Sometimes in the Linguistics office we can be rather silly …

There are a number of roles that the linguists here fill, and some of my colleagues have very many “hats”.

Last week we commissioned a colleague (who is very arty and teaches some of the missionary kids here), to represent our many “hats” on the board in our office:

artist-at-work

The artist at work.

The only hats I wear are the “Orthography Hat” (note the crazy eyes – a genuine side effect of trying to puzzle out spelling system issues for too long) and the “Linguist Hat” (with the ivory tower representing the peaceful environment of theoretical linguistics).

My colleagues also wear: the “Consultant Hat”, the “EC Hat” (Entity Committee …not sure exactly what they do, but important things for the running of our organisation….); the “Dictionary Hat”; the “Coordinator Hat”; and of course the “Cat in the Hat” for when we are not working!

 

Linguistics-team-hats(small1)

Most of the linguistics team, together with the artist and our hats. (Our supervisor was not in that day and so is not pictured – perhaps that is why our silly hat discussion occurred!)

 

Seeing Beauty in the Chaos: Enjoying Imbrication.

(This is a linguistics post, but it has reminded me of the wonderful creativity of God. Skip to the end for this part!)

Lately, one of the problems I have been working on has been figuring out the reasons behind some very strange word endings.

In Kabwa (as in all Bantu languages – the big language family that Kabwa belongs to), pieces can be added onto words to add meaning (this is called “agglutination” – sounds like glue and acts like it too!).

This means that you can have a lot of fun, especially with verbs, adding together different endings to change the meaning slightly.

Sometimes the pieces stick together in a nice row, and it is obvious what pieces have been added.

However, sometimes the sounds in the different pieces like to play around and a totally different ending is created.
This is one of the difficulties I encounter when I’m checking the spelling of some Kabwa words.

One specific ending /-iri/ is used in some past tenses; /-iri/ really likes to play with its neighbours …

(For these examples I used the Kabwa verb /rih/ which means ‘pay’)

The pieces:

The outcome:

Swahili:

English:

a-rih-iri

arihiri

amelipa

He has paid

a-rih-ir-iri

arihiiri

amelipia

He has paid on behalf of someone else

a-rih-i-iri

arihirye

amelipisha

He has avenged (or made to pay)

a-rih-w-iri

arihirwe

amelipwa

He has been paid

a-rih-ir-i-iri

arihiirye

amelipishia

He has avenged on behalf of someone else

a-rih-ir-w-iri

arihiirwe

amelipiwa

He has been paid on behalf of someone else

a-rih-i-w-iri

arihiibhwe

amelipishwa

He has been avenged on behalf of someone else

 

But then it gets more confusing, because sometimes the same ending (or almost the same) can be created from different pieces being added together, without the /-iri/ piece …

The pieces:

The outcome:

Swahili:

English:

a-rih-ir-e

arihire

alipie

He should pay on behalf of someone else

a-rih-ir-i-e

arihirye

alipishie

He should avenge on behalf of someone else

a-rih-ir-w-e

arihirwe

alipiwe

He should be paid on behalf of someone else

a-rih-i-w-e

arihibhwe

alipishwe

He should be avenged on behalf of someone else

 

Those of you who have made it this far might be interested to know that the technical term for these pieces of words playing and overlapping is “imbrication“. This term can also be used to talk of actual overlapping in sedimentology, tiling, and surgery – fun!

 

At first, the mixture of all these different endings seemed like such a mess to me. But now that I can see the pattern, it really does seem sort of beautiful!

It has reminded me that often our lives can seem to be in a bit of a mess; we can’t make sense of everything; we can’t see the reason and the plan behind it all.

But the same God who created the universe, who created the wealth of intricately beautiful languages in the world, he created us. He wove us together and he has woven our lives together. We may not always be able to see the rhyme and reason, but he does, and sometimes that has to be enough.

Psalm 139 talks about this as well (verses 13-16) (NIV):

“For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

 

Unwelcome Guests.

A week ago I returned from our organisation’s annual conference in Dar es Salaam. It was a very refreshing week, with some good Bible teaching, many times of singing together, lots of fun with friends, and also our general meeting.

I arrived back in Musoma about 8pm at night. It was dark, and I was looking forward to my bed after a day of travelling.

But I found my house surrounded by a cloud of teeny, tiny, buzzing, Lake flies.

This is one of the hazards of living on the shores of Lake Victoria; sometimes clouds of tiny flies come off the lake, and they really enjoy congregating around our security lights and getting into the house through every possible nook and cranny.

This meant that even more cleaning than normal has been necessary this last week …

lake-flies-1

Fortunately lake flies live for only a day, so the next day most of them were dead (and therefore much easier to remove!). This is just a fraction of what I swept out of the house.

lake-flies-2

There was a carpet of them on our back veranda.

lake-flies-3

And yes, the dogs like to eat them … weird …

lake-flies-4

More piled outside the front door.

lake-flies-5

And heaps on the inside window ledges … bleugh!

But, I’m very thankful for our hoover (a.k.a. vacuum cleaner, for the non-Brits among you), especially for the handle extension which meant I could just about reach the ceiling boards (no photographic evidence, but lake flies make it very clear how covered your ceiling is in cobwebs!!).