Playing With Words
“Players” are organized into teams of four people. Each team receives a piece of paper listing a topic and helpful hints. As the assigned reader begins reading, the designated writer poises his pen above a blank sheet of paper. The goal: to get down on paper any and every word related to the topic. All four team members call out words. One player thinks of a word, which sparks an idea in another player’s mind, energizing and exciting the team as the words spill out. Soon vocabulary comes thick and fast, and the writer has trouble keeping up.
Is this the latest popular party game? Not exactly. It’s a new method for collecting the words of a language. Every speaker is a walking, talking dictionary. But how to get the words out of heads and onto paper? Thanks to the groundbreaking work of SIL lexicologist* Ron Moe, Rapid Word Collection facilitates an important step in the Scripture-translation process: the creation of a thesaurus and rudimentary dictionary in a community’s heart language. This technique, which uses a list of 1,800 topics with helpful hints, facilitates collecting 10,000 to 20,000 words in a given language in as little as two weeks!
Once the words are typed into a computer using WeSay (software that allows language speakers who are computer novices to build a dictionary in their own language), Bible translation software can access the database to help the translator find the best possible word to use in translating a Greek or Hebrew word. The software to do this is presently under development and should be available soon.
To date, technology has played only a minor role in a translation team’s vital search for language equivalents for biblical “key terms” such as righteousness, justification, and atonement. “Playing” Rapid Word Collection can radically change that, enabling translators to discover the right word sooner rather than later.
Kevin Warfel has worked as a language software consultant since 2007 and is currently helping translators use the Fieldworks Language Explorer (FLEx) program effectively.