Dictionary-making workshop for the Gusilay in Senegal

Collecting words for the parts of a house

(March 2017) In the town of Thionck-Essyl in the south of Senegal, speakers of the Gusilay (Gusiilaay) language are celebrating the success of a recent Rapid Word Collection (RWC) workshop, where they collected a total of 12,485 words in 11 days. The workshop was publicized on the local radio station, including interviews of participants who voiced the importance of their collective work, resulting in a room full of Gusilay speakers at the closing ceremony, ready to join the celebration.

Gusilay speaker Ibrahima Diatta and SIL’s David Wilkinson began plans in early 2016 to create the first Gusilay-French dictionary for the 20,000+ Gusilay speakers. This workshop was a step toward fulfilling the aspirations of the Gusilay—to develop and gain recognition for their language.

Held 7–25 February 2017, the workshop began with three days of training led by SIL consultant Kevin Warfel. A core group of enthusiastic Gusilay participants worked hard each day, including several members of the Gusilay literacy organization, a linguistics student, and a member of the community who evolved into the chief glosser (translator), even though no one had envisioned him in that role prior to the training period. He proved to be one of the most dependable participants, even setting the precedent for taking folders full of language data home to work on after the normal workshop hours.

As a result of the drive and dedication of the core group, the original goal of recording 10,000 words was surpassed by day nine of the workshop! By the end of the workshop, most of the recorded words had been translated and typed into the FLEx database, with a resulting mock-up dictionary printed in time for the closing ceremony.

Read the full article at sil.org.

RWC Workshop Motivates Mother-Tongue Speakers in Tanzania

Ikizu-Sizaki word-collection group

(January 2017) Johnny Walker (SIL) facilitated a Rapid Word Collection workshop in Tanzania for two closely related language communities, Ikizu and Sizaki, with the goal of producing a joint trilingual dictionary: Ikizu/Sizaki-Swahili-English. In addition to the expected outcome of collecting more than 10,000 words, this workshop had an unanticipated positive result—a community motivated to establish a “dictionary committee” to deal with formal recognition of new terms in the language

This was the second RWC workshop that Johnny led independently after being trained in 2014, and he felt more comfortable in the role this time around than he did in 2015 when he led his first one. His increased effectiveness yielded the results we have come to expect from a fully staffed 10-day workshop: 13,504 words collected in 1,624 semantic domains.

What no one necessarily expected, but which everyone involved got very excited about, was the fact that this workshop led to the Ikizu and Sizaki communities becoming quite enthusiastic about their perceived need for developing mother-tongue terminology for modern terms like “computer,” “television,” and “radio” rather than just using borrowed words. It was decided that the decision for inclusion of such neologisms in the dictionary should be made by a committee that would research them well prior to recommending them. This "dictionary committee" is only an idea at this point, but everyone involved with the workshop—participants and organizers alike—found the initiative to be a positive and energizing next step.

Read the Ikizu-Suzaki RWC workshop report.

Rapid Word Collection Comes to Chad

(July 2016) SIL Chad is partnering with FAPLG (Fédération des Associations de Promotion des Langues du Guéra) to meet the linguistic needs of the 25+ language communities in the Guéra Region. In July of this year, Rapid Word Collection (RWC) consultant Kevin Warfel led a workshop for one of those languages. Both FAPLG and SIL personnel were trained so they can conduct and teach similar workshops in other Guéra languages in the future.

On the fifth day of the workshop, two government officials, who are involved in language promotion, stopped by to see how the workshop was progressing. Everyone was thrilled to point to the progress meter showing that 7000 words had already been collected!

After hearing about and seeing what was going on, one of the officials—whose roots are in the Guéra Region—stated that his language should be the next one to benefit from this newly learned technique.

 By the end of the workshop, 13,084 words had been collected—more than most had dared to hope to achieve.

More on this topic can be found in this article on sil.org.


Fifty-six down; forty-four to go!

(March 2016) As of 1 March, fifty-six dictionaries are now available on SIL’s Webonary. Newly published are Burkina Faso Kusaal Dictionary, Dictionnaire Mbule and Dictionnaire Moore. This online resource gives minority language groups the ability to publish bilingual or multilingual dictionaries on the web with a minimum of technical help. SIL is aiming to publish 100 dictionaries on Webonary by 1 October 2016.

Read the full article at sil.org.