Developing a Written Tribal Language

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by Mike Wild on June 25, 2015

Thank you so much for your blog! I enjoy it so much! Thank you for allowing us to have a window into your lives. You make it look so easy, but I know it's not. (I love Asher's smile!!!) Question for Mike, Did the people you work with have a written language, or did you have to make one? I wonder at that process...Praying for you all (hats off to mom Libby!)

—Tina M.

Hello, Tina. Thanks for your prayers! The people that we work with had no official written language before we started. We were the first outsiders to learn their language, and after we became fluent, we (my language partner and I) did phonemic, phonetic, grammar, and discourse write-ups on the language. Next, we decided on the symbols to use in their alphabet. We tried to follow the alphabet in the national language as closely as possible. This would be helpful later; if some of the literate tribal people could learn to write in the trade language, they would not have to learn new symbols for the sound. For example, in the national language, they use t, m, n, and p. Since the tribal language also has those same sounds, we used those symbols to indicate the sounds. There are, however, some different sounds in the tribal language that are not in the national language. There is a glottal, for example. Since this sound and corresponding letter is not in the national language we gave it its own symbol, which is ‘.

After we finalized the alphabet, we developed literacy lessons and a literacy school. It has now (after much discipleship) been handed over to the tribal people, and they are teaching their own people to read and write. I hope that answers your question. Blessings to you!

In Christ,

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*The views expressed by the Wild family are their own and not necessarily those of Answers in Genesis.

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