New opportunities amid a pandemic
By Narelle Barnsley | Wycliffe Today Spring Edition 2020 |
I work with the Kanja language group in PNG. This is a small language group in Western province. It is the most south-western language group in PNG. According to Ethnologue, it has a population of about 400 people. This year has been full of unexpected turns, with COVID-19 disrupting a lot of my plans. However, this does not mean that work on the language project has halted for this year. It still continues, just in different ways. I am currently in the initial language and culture learning phase of the language project. This is important as the better I learn the language and culture, the more help I can be to the future local translators as they translate the Bible into the Kanja language. Normally, most of my language learning would happen in situ in the village, however with COVID-19 I have been unable to go to the village. Despite this, I have still been able to continue with language learning by using recordings of people telling stories in language and other language data I have collected.
I have also been able to continue with some of the nitty-gritty language work that is necessary for a good translation. I have been working on a paper on the sounds of the Kanja language—this will enable me to better help the community in making decisions about their alphabet. I am also working on analysing the grammar of Kanja which has a complex verb system. Understanding this well will enable me to better help the future local translators with the translation by helping them to understand the differences between how their language works grammatically compared with the language from which they are translating.
The interruption caused by COVID-19 has also enabled me to help out in ways that would not have happened otherwise. In June, I helped with a pilot project for potential new project management software for language programs. This required internet connection that I do not have in the village. If I had gone to the village as planned, I would not have been able to help with this. I have also had opportunities to help out at our store for a couple of months, disinfecting baskets and trolleys. While doing so, I have been able to make new connections with the community. I have also been helping at the market to seat the vendors so that they are socially distanced and to hand out literature about COVID-19.