The word-collection phase was very successful in our estimation. Despite being held during rainy season we were able to work each day, and we had very consistent participation from the language speakers. The staff functioned admirably and we attribute the smooth organization to the willingness of each SIL member and FAPLG (Guera literacy federation) staff person to diligently fulfill his or her role. Using different ways of marking progress–a tally of the total words reached each day, a painting of a millet field with empty stalks on which heads of millet were painted for every 500 words collected, even the visual impact of folders moving to the basket of completed folders kept up the enthusiasm of the participants, ringing a bell when we had passed the initial goal of 10,000 words. They commented that it was particularly encouraging to have the workshop coordinator or one of the consultants come around and visit the groups as they worked. We did not often need to intervene to help a group function better, but stopping by and sitting with a group for a while helped them feel part of the whole large effort.
From the experience of the workshop we noted some challenges about the method itself, particularly the need to have local language personnel highly skilled in French in order to understand the questionnaire (which was not a significant problem for this language group, but will be for others in our region). We also noted that some of the semantic domains were repetitive and we added some at the end for vocabulary that was not elicited, specifically for “millet,” “types of horses/cows/goats/chickens” (distinguished not only by colors, but also by horns, ears, size, age, etc.).
A few other areas in which we can make specific comments:
Number of glossers: For this workshop having 6 glossers worked well, corresponding to the number of groups. For the first morning, we had them start by each being part of a group and doing some glossing as the group produced sheets. Once folders started being completed we had the glossers work as a group and this proved effective. They developed a system of working all together at one table, 3 on each side, and treating 2 folders at a time. They benefitted from being able to consult with one another, and took turns actually writing down the glosses. At one point around Days 3-4 the folders started to pile up as groups did domains that generated long lists (animals, trees, etc.). So we had one of the word collection groups spend an afternoon acting as glossers. But apart from that time, the glossers were able to keep up with the groups and we had all of the folders glossed before the closing ceremony!
Separation of typists from other participants: We had the typists work in the same room as the glossers and the record-keeper. This worked well, since the typists were not speakers of the language, but had quick access to bilingual speakers to clarify spelling, etc. The translators took the initiative to check with a group if they did not understand something they had written, though this happened relatively infrequently. The consultants/coordinator also helped out by going back to groups if necessary to ask for clarification.
Support and involvement of an authority figure: In Mongo we paid a courtesy visit to the governor of the Guera region with the SIL consultants. We held an opening ceremony for the word-collection days in the village of Koubo-Adougoul. Three local chiefs attended and a representative of the regional sous-prefet (district official) gave an opening word. During the course of the word collection we were pleased to have a visit from the General Director of Literacy from the Education Ministry who was travelling past. The SIL Chad Director and Dr. Jim Roberts had paid a courtesy visit to their office in N’Djamena with Kevin Warfel when he arrived in the country. The Director of Literacy was very enthusiastic and complimentary about our efforts and was pleased that we were working. The word-collection phase in the village finished with a closing ceremony, again attended by local officials, chiefs and religious leaders. A report about the workshop was even broadcast on the local radio station and friends we met on the day after commented about how we had found more than 13,000 words!
Help for team leaders with a limited level of bilingualism: Most of the team leaders had a good understanding of French, so we did not need to provide extra help for these groups. We noted the first day that one group seemed to be having difficulty with the high level of French in the questionnaire, so we had one of the consultants-in-training, Sakine Ramat, spend the next day working with them and explaining concepts in Chadian Arabic as necessary. On subsequent days this particular group worked effectively.