Digging Deep to Find Hidden Treasure

“It is just like we are digging deep inside to find the treasure hidden under the ground. Once again I thank God for our hardworking teachers and mentors for helping us to dig inside our own language and discover the riches.” – Gabriel Ikamu, Gulf Province

Eighteen Papua New Guinean translators from twelve different languages gathered together for an introductory course in linguistics, for the purpose of improving their translation and language development work in their communities. The Discover Your Language course is the first of its kind and was held at the Ukarumpa Training Centre for four weeks. The helped the participants understand the unique structures of their languages and how to use those structures to improve their translations.

Robert Eko, from the Angaataaha language in Morobe Province, said of the course, “…it’s given me more understanding to do my translation work without any doubt.” Participants spent nearly 150 hours discovering and writing grammars for these languages, many of which had never before been described by linguists. Translators frequently encounter pitfalls when going from a different language, such as Greek, into their native tongue, often due to structural differences between languages. A simple introduction to basic linguistic principles empowered and energized participants as they discovered the hidden mysteries of the languages they have been speaking their whole lives.

Titus Gamudze, from the Guhu-Samane language in Morobe Province, could already see the value of his newly acquired knowledge. He explained, “I will be respected by my fellow translators and the community as well, and after this course, I feel I know more about our language…” Mambu Aki, a translator for the Amam language in Morobe Province, said, “When I go home I will apply everything I have been taught, so I believe I will do a good translation.” Accurate and clear translations are worth far more than gold to these men, who have spent hours working for their communities. Now that the digging is done, they can return home and share these new riches.

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