When I got home from the Sagala survey, I was amazed at how many emails Tammie had set aside for me to read. She categorized them and told me which ones she had answered and which ones needed my attention. She was an email machine while I was away! It took me about 8 hours of reading over 4 days to wade through them all. Many asked for a report on the Sagala survey, so here it is.
It is a language related to the Kaguru language which we surveyed in August. We heard from the start that the people do not use it anymore, i.e. the young children don't hardly know it, because for many years sugar and sisal plantations in the area have attracted people from every tribe in Tanzania. But we had to follow the scientific procedure to provide hard proof, and not just rely on a few peoples' opinions. We heard there were three dialects, and one was really outside the area we originally thought we would be going to.
We went there first. Our tests and interviews confirmed that the language is not in use and will die out within a generation or two. But we did a word list for archiving sake and for comparison with other languages. We had a hunch it would be a short survey, so we decided to go ahead and do a survey of a very small and closely-related language which is about 30 kilometers away, called Vidunda. We decided that even if it extends the whole survey a few days beyond the scheduled two weeks, it would be worth it because most of us spend three days packing and preparing for each survey and two days unpacking.
We were welcomed by the Catholic Priest of the area who fed us and lodged us for several days. We hiked about three hours up and over a mountain to a remote village, only to be met by a very suspicious group of village leaders, elders, and government officials. Because our letters of reference were from the appropriate higher up government officials, we were finally allowed to work, after we showed the proper ID. We randomly selected 30 people to answer about 15 minutes worth of questions each.
Nobody came at the appointed time, so we began going house to house, up and down steep hillside trails. We were told everyone was "afraid". But we were never told "of what". Even after we interviewed about 18 people the second day, still word around the village was that people were afraid of us. Some people shut their door and yelled at us to go away, and others lied and said the person on the list was not home; and we were accompanied by the village leaders every place we went. There were many other logistical problems with this survey, and in many ways it was extremely discouraging. Then when we returned to the village where the Priest was hosting us, we arranged to speak with 30 more people. AFter changing plans about 10 times, the village leaders agreed that everyone on the list would be at church Sunday morning, so we could meet everybody then, before and after church. Those who go to second service could come early, and those who go to first service could answer questions during second service.
By 1 P.M. everyone had poured out of church and gone straight to the "moonshine shop". We should have been done by 1 P.M., but not a single person had come. We finally got a few government officials to call the selected people together. Of the 42 we called, 18 came, so we had to get 2 more to meet our minimum of 20 subjects. The other surveyors who sat in on the first service said they did not see a single Swahili Bible in the whole church service. Everything was read from the pulpit from the liturgy book. Not much emphasis is placed on personal Bible Study. We determined that the local language is still in use and we think it would really bring the Gospel message alive, but there would be several difficulties for a translation team to overcome.
We went back to the Sagala survey, and went to the second dialect we had heard about, which some people said was a separate tribe and language completely. We could not find enough people who spoke the language to meet our minimum 20 subjects. So we basically confirmed that the language is dying out if not already dead and moved on to what we heard was the third and final dialect. But each place we stopped to get a little more information gave us conflicting answers. We were trying to find a village where the dialect is spoken in its purest form, and we could not even figure out if it really even existed. We followed one lead and found an old men who was very sharp and very matter-of-fact in his answers. We did the word list with him and asked a few questions and did not even attempt to meet with 20 individuals. We left still not knowing if this one dialect we kept hearing about was another tribe, did it exist, was it just an alternate name or what.
The people in the South told us things about those in the North, and vice versa, but when we arrived on site, the story was always different. So we have some leads for a future survey to look for this mystery dialect. The basic conclusion after looking at all three dialects (we think we visited all 3 of the three that exist) is that the local language has indeed been replaced by Swahili because of the influx of other tribes. That means that Mother Tongue translation is not needed, but we were able to see many other spiritual needs such as church planting, personal Bible Study, literacy, etc. It was a very atypical and confusing survey, and I left with an uneasy feeling that we still did not get all the information about what dialect is where and is it really different? But because of the apparent lack of Bible Translation need, any further research would have been academically interesting but beyond our immediate concerns, so we just left several questions hanging.
We made it home in exactly two weeks, and the broken axle did not give us any trouble the whole trip, and we only had one flat tire that we got repaired at a gas station. The cassette player did not eat any music cassettes like on the previous trip.
The fuel filter clogged three times, but I can unclog it now in about 10 minutes. One time I really cleaned the filter out thoroughly, but lost about 2 cups of diesel from the filter itself. So instead of sucking two liters of diesel through the line and spitting it into the filter little by little, which I had seen done before, I just filled it full of kerosene (from our camping supplies), and the engine started right up. I had heard a diesel engine would run on kerosene, so I thought I would put it to the test. It is great to be home, but now we have two reports to write, and we are in the process of moving into our new office. We are really looking forward to having the office out of our house.
Thanks for your prayers during the survey, and please continue to pray for the Sagala and Vidunda people. I had a novel idea while reading through another missionary's update letter. I want to make a sign that says, "Jesus wants to see the people around his throne." and in the place of the blank, I am going to write the list of 24 languages that PBT will survey over the next 3 years or so. It puts the work of survey in the proper perspective. This is why we do what we do.
God's richest blessings on you,