We have shared in the past about our guard Christian and how he and his son were voices in The Jesus Film for the Badw’ee language. So, I assumed he was already completely literate in his mother tongue.
Earlier this week, instead of Christian spending the day chatting with the neighbors or looking for something to do around our house, our guard was studying his Badw’ee primer.
How often do I take for granted that I can read and write in the language that I’ve spoken since I began talking? I know I had to learn the differences between è, é and e when learning French but that doesn’t even begin to show the complexities of all the symbols in tonal languages.
For example, Badw’ee uses the standard Cameroonian alphabet of 40 different characters but it also marks tone when distinguishing between two different words with the same spelling.
So, getting the New Testament in their mother tongue is not the end of the process, it takes practice and a desire to learn new symbols in their language to be able to read it. There are different activities that Literacy workers do in order to generate excitement about learning to read and write in their mother tongue, here is an example of several languages in Cameroon making their own books in their own languages.