"If your God is so mighty, why doesn't He speak my language?"
A Cakchiquel (Guatemala) man to SIL founder William Cameron Townsend
Background: Dr. John R. Watters, President of SIL International, and his wife, Kathie Watters, worked with various speakers of the Ejagham language community from 1974-1989 to develop a written form of their language. The Ejagham are found in the Eyumojok Sub-Division, Manyu Division, SW Region. The Watters carried out linguistic research, and Dr. Watters received his PhD in Linguistics from UCLA in 1981. Based on the linguistic research, they helped the Ejagham produce various educational and cultural booklets. They also helped the churches translate the New Testament into Ejagham. The New Testament was dedicated in 1997.
Ejagham has been taught in some local schools under the PROPELCA program for the past decade and presently under the Parent Schools program. Both SIL Cameroon and CABTAL (Cameroon Association for Bible Translation and Literacy) have supported the community in various aspects of language development over the years. The Watters have also continued to be involved from a distance with the community since 1989, particularly through a local committee, the Ejagham Language and Development Association (ELDA). ELDA is implementing informal literacy programs in both schools and churches, and promoting the use of the New Testament and other literature. On their visit, the Watters learned about some of the successes of the educational, literacy and promotional programs and also about some of the current challenges.
John writes, "It had been over eleven years since we had been in the Ejagham area. We had the privilege of visiting the Ejagham speaking area of Cameroon for four days, Monday through Thursday, March 2-5, 2009. We visited five Ejagham villages and saw many friends from the past. It was encouraging to see people carrying Ejagham New Testaments that were well-worn and to hear some members of a local literacy class stand up and read. We heard others read Kande's Story, an AIDS education booklet translated into the Cameroonian dialect of Ejagham. Others sang Ejagham style songs composed of verses of the Scriptures. A highlight was arriving on Monday, March 2, just when the final recording was being done of the entire Ejagham New Testament for audio use. Soon a listening program will be organized so that all Ejagham speakers, whether they can read or not, can listen to the Ejagham Scriptures and discuss together what they might mean for daily living."
The Watters hope to continue supporting the Ejagham community in their language development work. This would include such projects as further development of an Ejagham dictionary, a pedagogical grammar, and the preparing of some parts of the Old Testament that have already been translated in first draft.
|John and Kathie Watters on visit in the Ejagham language community.|