Lydia Marcus – Staff Writer
Literacy is important, but we often take it for granted.
By reading the previous sentence, you demonstrated your capacity for literacy. You likely did not have to think very hard about reading the sentence; you just did it.
Literacy can reduce poverty, increase civic engagement, and contribute to economic growth. Literacy also plays a key role in missions work and sharing the gospel.
However, literacy is only possible when there is a written language to read. According to Professor Leendert van Beek, about 2,500 languages have no written script; some people are not literate in their mother tongue because it is physically impossible.
“Our college students learn languages through online and written materials, but Bible translators don’t have anything like that,” said van Beek. Bible translators typically travel to areas that have no script or alphabet yet. Bible translators must become acquainted with the culture and understand the language before they can begin the formation of an alphabet and the translation of the Bible.
During the week of October 27, Dordt recognizes the importance of linguists, specifically Bible translators, in its 41st annual Hug-a-Linguist days. Dordt partners with Wycliffe Bible Translators, an organization dedicated to making “God’s word accessible to all people in the language of their hearts.”
“Dordt’s Hug-a-Linguist Days are unique in the sense that they emphasize the linguistic and cultural aspects of learning a new language from scratch, all of this in the wider perspective of meeting the stranger on their grounds and on their terms,” said van Beek.
Wycliffe representative Mike Cahill will be on campus throughout the week to answer questions and discuss the work of Wycliffe. There will be a display table in the Campus Center, and at 8:30 p.m. on October 30, Cahill will host a discussion session in the Grille.
At 10 a.m. on October 31 in CL 2246, sophomore Gretchen Rops will discuss her summer experience with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Rops spent three weeks in Oaxaca, Mexico.
“During those three weeks we held a children’s workshop promoting the use of the local Mixtec language, distributed Megavoices which contain and play the recorded Mixtec New Testament, and went to a dedication of the book of Luke in another minority language,” said Rops. In her presentation, she will share what she learned about Bible translation and its importance through her experiences.
“Language is related very closely to culture, and when we see that connection and realize that each language represents a unique way of viewing the world, it should become more important to us that every language—even the small, minority languages that maybe less than a hundred people speak—is appreciated and preserved,” said Rops.
Linguistic students are not the only ones who can become involved in Wycliffe and its mission. “Wycliffe needs people from all study areas and interests,” said van Beek. “In order for the linguists in the group to do their work, there are so many more other people needed. They often come with a family, so teachers are needed for their children, computer programmers, computer analysts, social workers, literacy workers, to mention just a few.”
Students wishing to learn more about Wycliffe, the work of Bible translators, or linguistics may direct their questions to Professor van Beek. Oh, and don’t forget to hug a linguist.