Missions Moment – Thailand

Posted in: Missions

Terry Gibbs, Wycliffe Bible Translators

Thank you for your prayers and financial support this past month.

We’re now in our summer session here at Payap with introductory classes in Phonetics and Phonology starting two weeks ago and Grammar starting in July. And we also have a Literacy class which started last week. Added to that we are hosting a Multi-Lingual Education course with 30 people attending from various nearby countries, and an EthnoArts class of 10 people. So I’m kept busy with making sure that things like A/C and lights work and helping people with connecting their computer to the Projectors so they can show PowerPoint presentations.

But most of the time has been spent with helping 2 students last month and now 4 students this month with formatting their Thesis. After I do my initial formatting checks I then help students with the process of getting everything else done. After their Thesis Defense takes place it takes a little over 6 weeks to complete the: steps of final formatting, Payap checking the thesis at two different times, printing the books and then making the CD’s. Then there’s always various forms to fill out and getting them signed. Although computers are in use here, Thailand and nearby countries rely heavily on paper to document everything. So there’s a myriad of forms for everything that happens in this country with each needing multiple signatures.

A couple of months ago I was asked to also help 2 students at Mahidol University in Bangkok with getting their thesis formatting straightened out. Mahidol University has completely different layout requirements for their Thesis so it’s taken me longer than usual to get the text formatted the ‘right’ way. SIL and Mahidol University have a common interest in helping children who’s first language is not Thai. Other things I’ve done at Payap include helping a couple of student that are having cooling fan problems on their computers. I usually go ‘shopping’ for electronic items on Saturday as part of my walking around. There are several small shops here that carry a wide variety of computer parts. It’s convenient being here since most items are made in China, so these shops can order parts from the original manufactures there.

I recently met a young couple from Argentina, which was only the second time in 10 years that I met someone from that country. I also had an interesting discussion with a young couple who had been married less than two weeks. When I asked him where they were from, he said they were both from Lebanon (so that was a first for me), and that they were spending a few days in Chiang Mai as part of their honeymoon. I eventually got around to asking him about his religious beliefs. He said that his father was a Muslim and his mother was a Christian. She spoke up and said both of her parents were Muslim. When I said I was a Christian, he said he didn’t believe in God, and she spoke up and agreed with him. Then he said “We don’t believe that God exists”. I was surprised to say the least.

I’ve received permission to pass along part of an email that one of our senior linguists here wrote to our computing teams.

“I just want to take a minute to express my profound gratitude to the Computer Support and Software Development teams.  We experienced a lot of spiritual warfare for this past workshop and your two teams have been instruments of God’s deliverance.

We are hoping to launch a cluster translation project to do audio-recorded New Testaments in a group of related languages. This week we had a workshop for analyzing the sounds of five languages.  We needed to figure out what adjustments to the standard writing system will be needed in order to write down the translation drafts for the New Testament.  These are all languages which have never been written down before, though there is a writing system for a very similar language.

We used two software programs for this stage of the work.  Speech Analyzer, which helps us carefully analyze the minute details of the sounds in a language recording, and Phonology Assistant, which helps us to find the patterns of sounds for each language so we know which ones need to be represented in the writing system.  These two programs work hand in hand.  Phonology Assistant “reads” the information we’ve stored in Speech Analyzer, and we can open up the Speech Analyzer files from within Phonology Assistant whenever we find that we want to make a change in a specific place in our Speech Analyzer data.

On the first day of our workshop, we couldn’t get Phonology Assistant to work properly with Speech Analyzer on four of the team’s computers. Terry Gibbs worked hard to figure out a solution, and then he found a way to get the programs to work properly on each computer, and he had to figure out more than one solution for different computers.  Moreover, Terry’s innovations on Speech Analyzer have made it possible for us to more quickly move through a lot of data.”