In learning any new language, your tongue twists and dances in ways it has never done so before. At first, the strange new consonants or accents sound odd and foreign. Slowly your tongue gets into shape and, although it still sounds stilted, you can at least make the appropriate noise.
One way I’ve been practicing my tongue lifts, has been to read aloud through Karimojong literature. I’ve sat with one of our workers and read through a scripture passage, learning the words for crowd and shepherds along the way. I’ve also followed along when Dave guides the staff through a summary of an Old Testament story. One person reads aloud and I follow silently mouthing the strange words, hoping that none question my sanity in the process.
Yesterday I was able to strengthen my tongue again by reading through the Bible story with one of our translators. She invited me to her home in the village that sits behind our clinic at the base of the mountains. We laid out a canvas bag and fabric wrap on the packed dirt ground and sat in the shade of one of her grain houses. A breeze kept the morning pleasantly cool though any limbs in the sun burned with its heat. I pulled a pamphlet out of my backpack that was given to me by another missionary. It contained the bible verses about the angel visiting Mary and Joseph, the announcement to the shepherds and Christ’s birth. The back explains why we tell the story, that we are all sinners in need of Christ’s grace to be washed clean.
I have worked with this particular translator on various visits to the village and regular language meetings. She assists primarily in translating the health lessons taught in the village and clinic, along with other duties on the mission compound. She had recently found her birth certificate and was astonished to find that she was over forty years old. When I pulled out the pamphlet she eagerly eyed it and said, “Let us read together. I am learning.” So the two of us haltingly read through the entire story; she corrected me on those pesky ng’s and double vowels while I ensured she said every syllable and translated the occasional repetitive word.
What a pleasure to find this place of equality and fellowship! We were both learners laughing at our mistakes and trying again until “totamatama” and “ngikecebaren” came out correctly. We were both students learning to read.