Friday, 23 May 2008

"Distressed @ Standard of English"

"I teach at a local university and I am very distressed by the standard of written English the students present. To say it is generally poor is to understate the case." These are the opening sentences of a letter addressed to the editor of the Jamaica Gleaner by one Michael R. Nicholson on Monday of this week.

Michael's concern is not new - ever so often, one stumbles upon an article expressing similar concerns in our papers. I would not be alarmed, if markers of the pending CXC exams do not reiterate their alarm at the plight of our children’s grasp of our national language - English. (For one reason or another, I cringe when I have to describe English as being our national language – I am not fond of the collocation!)

Mr Nicholson posed an important question: "How is it that we, with English as our official language, have our students unable to write or speak it properly?" We need not go far in search for an answer however; the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture has provided an answer to Michael’s query in its “Language Education Policy.” The second paragraph of the Policy’s Executive Summary contains the words: “Although Jamaica is described as a bilingual country with Standard Jamaican English (SJE) and Jamaican Creole (JC) being the two languages in operation, the fluid nature of language usage between these languages, as well as the peculiar nature of the linguistic relationship they share, creates difficulties for the majority of Creole speakers learning English.”

Having answered the above question partially (for our problem is more than linguistic though), we are at once faced with another – and this is where the issue becomes tensive and political– “By what means should the Jamaican government help its children become proficient in Standard Jamaican English?”

I am of the opinion that the best means of addressing this grave concern of ours is to adopt a mother tongue-based multilingual education (MLE) policy

Many persons involved with Wycliffe Bible Translators believe that it is wise and that it would be profitable if governments began their children’s education in their first language and gradually transition them to the use of the language of wider communication. In our context that would be from Jamaican Creole to Standard Jamaican English.

I unapologetically support bilingualism; I have never been opposed to teaching our children English – in fact, I insist upon their acquisition of the language successfully. I take seriously therefore the unanimous evidence laid before us by leading education and language experts - that when taught in their mother tongue, children learn the national language better, faster, and more easily. Other well established benefits occasioned by Wycliffe’s Bible translation efforts are psychological, economical, social, pedagogical, cognitive, linguistic, cultural, human rights, et cetera.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

The Cross in Jamaican!

Earlier this afternoon, I was thinking about the Jamaican Creole Translation Project and its relation to the buzzword in missiology these days - contextualisation. How does the Project relate to communicating the good news about Jesus in terms appropriate to Jamaicans? What does the Project say about the way God communicates with His Church in different linguistic communities? A host of other questions could be asked. Among the many answers that one could provide, one could say that the Project bears witness to the fact that the message of Christ and of His Kingdom is best understood when it is expressed in the linguistic, conceptual, & cultural categories of the people to whom it is being presented (1 Corinthians 9:19-22; Jn 1:1-18).
Indeed, the Bible is also concept forming, and many times it requires that its adherences modify some of their previous conceptual categories. It is my contention that the Gospel is supracultural; it does not destroy cultural; it redeems it and speaks its language.
It's because of reasons such as this that I constructed the cross you see in this blog. The colours of the cross are those of the Jamaican flag / our national colours - black, green, and gold. It's patern is also akin to that of our traditional dress - the bandana.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Discourse Features in Jamaican

Just over a month ago, I arrived in the UK in order to do some Bible translation related courses. One of the things our instructors have been trying to persuade of is the importance of studying & coming to grips with the discourse features of the languages we are working with.

Two of projects I’ve done so far have caused me to realise an important feature of narrating in Jamaican: when narrating in Jamaican, we tend to not to use very many past time markers. Indeed, the speaker/author provides contextual clues/markers from which s/he expects his/her listener(s)/reader(s) to infer that what s/he’s narrating is a past event; nonetheless, the continuous use of present tense verbs in seems to produce a phenomenon that corresponds to the historical present in English.

It seems to me that this use of the present tense in narratives creates a degree of vividness and expectancy that the past tense particle (did(a)/wee/wean/ena) does no seem to convey.

Do bear with me if you think this might be a very clumsy way of articulating what’s going through my mind. I’ll come back to the issue at a later date.

I'm really interested in exploring the issue of discourse features in Jamaican...

What Was John Wycliffe's Motivation?

Corey Keating has written a 12 page article entitled "John Wycliffe’s Motivation for Translating the Scriptures into his Vernacular Language." Enjoy!

But wait, Margaret Deanesly, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of London, has also written an interesting/provocative piece of paper entitled "The Significance of the Lollard Bible." It is interesting because in it she argues that "Wycliffe's intention in carrying through this complete translation can scarcely have been to render the Bible directly accessible to the masses....Wycliffe's translation of the whole Bible was an undertaking with a political side: the lay party could use it against the clericals...." Nonetheless, she concedes, "But the spiritual side of Wycliffe’s intention was much the stronger."

I think what Margaret has to say re the possibility of the accessibility of Wycliffe's translation to the masses for devotional purposes is worth paying attention to. She also reminds us (and Oh how we forget easily) that Wycliffe didn't do all the translation himself/personally - his Lollards did! To read Margaret's article, click here.

A Denomination's Change Of Heart!

Until recently, the Roman Catholic Church HAD BEEN one of the most vocal opposers of venacular Bible translations. (Though I'm a "Calvinist," I belive some of the underlying reasons were reasonable!). Listen to Pope Ggregory XVI (16th) in a circular letter (encyclical) he wrote 8th May 1844 called Inter Praecipuas (i.e. On Biblical Societies):

"...We emphatically exhort you to announce these Our commands to the people accredited to your pastoral care; explain them in the proper place and time, and strive mightily to keep the faithful sheep away from the Christian League and other biblical societies, as well as away from their followers. Also take from the faithful both the vernacular Bibles which have been published contrary to the sanctions of the Roman Pontiffs and all other books which are proscribed and more zealous each day to preach the word of God, both through yourselves and through the individual pastors in each diocese, and through other ecclesiastical men fit for the task. In particular, watch more carefully over those who are assigned to give public readings of holy scripture, so that they function diligently in their office within the comprehension of the audience; under no pretext whatsoever should they dare to explain and interpret the divine writings contrary to the tradition of the Fathers or the interpretation of the Catholic Church. Finally it is proper for a good pastor not only to safeguard and nourish his sheep...Nor indeed are the seducers to be deprived of the same priestly solicitude, especially the teachers of impiety themselves; although their sin is greater, We should not shrink from their salvation, which We may be able to procure by some means."

Now listen to Part 1, Section 1 1, Chapter 2 2, Article 3, Subsection 5 of "The Catechism of the Catholic Church":

131 "And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigour, and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life." Hence "access to Sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful."

132 "Therefore, the study of the sacred page should be the very soul of sacred theology. The ministry of the Word, too - pastoral preaching, catechetics and all forms of Christian instruction, among which the liturgical homily should hold pride of place - is healthily nourished and thrives in holiness through the Word of Scripture."

133 The Church "forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful... to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ."

:) Now, isn't that lovely?!

I just came across an artile in the United Bible Society's The Bible Translator (Vol 42, Num 2A) written by a Roman Catholic and entitled "Roman Catholics, Bible Societies and Bible Translation." Select the title of the artilce to read.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Breda Anansi Ah Kaman Sens

Wans opan a taim, Anansi tink tu imself seh da ef im kuda kalek-op aal di Kaman sens iina di wol an kip dem fi imself, den im boun fi get nof moni an nof powa: fa ebribadiuda hafi kom tu im wid dem woris dem, an im uda chaaj dem veri dier wen im advaiz dem

Anansi staat fi kalek-op an kalek-op aal di kaman sens dem im kuda fain an pu dem iian wan big-big kalabash. Wen im don saach an saach an kudn fain nomo kaman sens, Anansi disaid se im gwai aid im kalabash ful a kaman sens pan i tap a waa ai-ai chrii wichpaat nobadi els kuda riich i.

So, Anansi tai wan ruop roun di klabash nek an tai di ruop tuu en dem tugeda an tai di ruop ruon im nek, so dat di kalabash wee res pan im beli. Anansi staat fi klaim-op di ai-ai chrii, wichpaat im wena go aid di kalabash; but im kudn klaim gud nar tuu faas fa di kalabash wean get iina im wie ebritaim im chrai fi klaim.

Anansi chrai an chrai so til aal af a sodn im ie wan vais bos out a laaf baka im, an wen im luk, im si wan likl bwaai a stan-op a di chrii ruut an a laaf an ala out, “Wat a ful-fuul man! Ef yu waa fi klaim wan chrii front wie, wa mek yu no put i kalabash bak a yu?”

Wel sa, Anansi so bex fi ie dat big piis a kaman sens kum outa di mout a soch a likl bit a bwaai aafta im wee tink seh im wee kalek aal di kaman sens iina di wol dat Anansi grab aaf di kalabash fram roun im nek an fling i dong a chrii ruut

an di kalabash brok-op iin minsiz skyata out iina di briiz aal uova di wol, an ebribadi get a likl bit a kaman sens!

Iz Anansi mek i!

Jak Manduora,mi no chuuz non!

The Church's Prejudice Against Jamaican/Patois

Last August, Rev'd Devon Dick, pastor of the well known Boulevard Baptist Church wrote an article in the Gleaner entitled "A Boonoonoonoos Funeral for Miss Lou." In the article, the Rev'd made an interesting and rather stong claim: "nowhere is the prujudice against patois greatest than in the historic churches of Jamaica"! I concur! I've copied and pasted the main body of the article for you.

"Sadly, Miss Lou's work is not finished and there is much prejudice against patois. And perhaps nowhere is the prejudice against patois greatest than in the historic churches of Jamaica. This is a paradox because churches should be supporting the use of the mother tongue based on the precedence in the Bible. The New Testament was not written in classical Greek but in koine or common Greek. Jesus often spoke in story form. If it were good for the Master, should not the servants tread in it still?

When the Bible was to be translated into English, most British Christians created one hullabaloo because English was not seen as a classical language and educated persons spoke in Latin. And now people are holding on to British English as if that was the language that God spoke then and it is that which he speaks now.

The historic churches need to embrace patois and what better place to make a paradigm shift than at Miss Lou's funeral.

At my wife's graduation from the University of Wales in Great Britain, a part of the ceremony was done in Welsh, the people's language and also in English. Oh for the day when the university that gave Miss Lou an honorary doctorate will have a part of its graduation ceremony in patois. And what of a degree in patois and not only studying patois through English.

It is time to liberate patois and accept it as a language. The churches that are growing fastest and are more numerous have substantial parts of the worship conveyed in patois. Have you noticed that when historic churches are hosting evangelistic efforts most of the times they use evangelists who are competent to speak patois naturally? It appears that they are able to communicate better with the congregation than those who speak only in 'Standard English'. They use parables and stories like Jesus and Miss Lou to get the message across effectively and profoundly."

To read the entire article, click here.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Oh, Wonderful Wonderful Word of the Lord!

I’m in Wales this weekend. Today I visited one of the Churches which support me and my family in prayer. During the worship service, the Lord rekindled within me a passion for the sacred Scriptures by reminding me of the wealth of wisdom they offer, their salvific importance, their timelessness, and their ever abidingness. The means the Lord used to do this was the words of the old hymn “Oh, Wonderful, Wonderful Word of the Lord.” Here are the words…

"Oh, wonderful, wonderful Word of the Lord!
True wisdom its pages unfold;
And though we may read them a thousand times o’er,
They never, no never, grow old!
Each line hath a treasure, each promise a pearl,
That all if they will may secure;
And we know that when time and the world pass away,
God’s Word shall forever endure.

Oh, wonderful, wonderful Word of the Lord!
The lamp that our Father above
So kindly has lighted to teach us the way
That leads to the arms of His love!
Its warnings, its counsels, are faithful and just;
Its judgments are perfect and pure;
And we know that when time and the world pass away,
God’s Word shall forever endure.

Oh, wonderful, wonderful Word of the Lord!
Our only salvation is there;
It carries conviction down deep in the heart,
And shows us ourselves as we are.
It tells of a Savior, and points to the cross,
Where pardon we now may secure;
For we know that when time and the world pass away,
God’s Word shall forever endure.

Oh, wonderful, wonderful Word of the Lord!
The hope of our friends in the past;
Its truth, where so firmly they anchored their trust,
Through ages eternal shall last.
Oh, wonderful, wonderful Word of the Lord!
Unchanging, abiding and sure;
For we know that when time and the world pass away,
God’s Word shall forever endure."