What’s in a Decade?

It is now ten years since God first started speaking to me about Wycliffe Bible Translators (well, ten years since I started actually listening properly to him talking to me about it at least!).

My first reaction to that is, “What?! How can it be ten years already?” I still look almost exactly the same as I did then: some more freckles and scars, a few more creases around the eyes, a little older, a little (no, more than a little) wiser.

However, internally, in my character, in my faith, in my thinking and planning and praying, sometimes I think I’m barely recognisable from who I was ten years ago. And that is definitely a good thing.

So, what has the last decade held?

  • Finishing school for one thing – now that does feel like a lifetime ago.
  • Working in a boarding school; visiting Tanzania with Wycliffe for the first time.
  • Surviving three years studying Classics, and discovering a love for linguistics.
  • At least 8 different jobs in two years.
  • Beginning my training with Wycliffe, meeting so many new people in a few short months, and developing some deep friendships.
  • Two years in Tanzania, learning a lot about other cultures (not just Tanzanian, but American, Australian, German and Dutch, and what it means to me to be English!), and of course about languages and linguistics, and again, about myself, my character, my passions, who God has created me to be and a little more about who he wants to mould me into.
  • A lot more studying of linguistics, challenging myself academically. Also the greater challenge of speaking about Wycliffe with churches and small groups.

Phew, I think that’s quite enough!

But now I wonder, what the next ten years will hold? In the near future, I hope finishing a Masters dissertation and returning for another few years to Tanzania. But after that?

Praise God that he knows and, for now, I don’t and I don’t need to!

“…with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient …” (2 Peter 3:8-9)


I am God, and there is no other;
    I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
    from ancient times, what is still to come. …
What I have said, that I will bring about;
    what I have planned, that I will do.”

(Isaiah 46:9-11)


Typos of a Linguist

This month I’ve been back in Musoma, doing some research to help me complete my Masters dissertation. (The research is also really helpful for developing the writing system of Simbiti, so it’s great to have this chance to dig into some things in more detail.)

I’ve been having a lot of conversations with Simbiti speakers, recording many hundreds of words and phrases, and then listening carefully to them afterwards.


Recording in the sound studio.

When I listen to the words later, I write them down, paying careful attention to the length of vowels and tone patterns.


However, some of the letters and symbols I need to type are not on an normal English keyboard. I use the IPA – International Phonetic Alphabet (not India Pale Ale!). And I have some settings on my computer that enable me to switch keyboards, and use various key shortcuts to type the different symbols.


For example:

The Simbiti have 7 vowels: i, e, a, o, u … but also ɛ and ɔ. The shortcuts for these are just <e and <o.

They also have a β sound, which is sort of between an English ‘b’ and a ‘w’ (a voiced bilabial fricative if you care to know!), and this is typed with =b.

I try to write high tone where I hear it, which I do with @3 … giving á.


One of my current spreadsheets that I’m using to analyse words.

However, sometimes I forget to switch keyboards before I start typing, or the keyboard gets switched back when I change programme or sleep my computer.

This means that I end up typing long strings of nonsense!

I meant to type:
βɑɾɑɣɑ́mbɑ íʃɔ jɑitéɣeːreːje βúːjɑ   (‘They say that yesterday he listened well’)

But instead, what came out was:
=b=a>r=a@3=g=amb=a i@3=s<o j=aite@3=ge=:re=:je =bu@3=:j=a

It’s a bit frustrating if it takes me a while to notice, because I just have to delete it and type it all again! Whoops!

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.


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):


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:


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!


  • 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:


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!



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!)