Report on Koch Dictionary Development Workshop
Tura, West Garo Hills, Meghalaya, India, August to October 2008.
Languages: The Harigaya, Wanang, Chapra and Tintekiya varieties of Koch
We began our study of the Koch linguistic varieties in the summer of 2006, first by collecting word samples. At that time, we came across a book on Koch vocabulary “Kro-rungtãk: Koch into English and Assamese” published by the local Koch literature society, Koch Krorang Mathop (KKM). Although not a dictionary in the full sense of the word, the book provides a good proportion of the Koch vocabulary with translation into English and Assamese. However, in general, the book does not meet the requirements of a full-fledged dictionary. Other than this book, we were unable to find any other resources on Koch vocabulary. This was the main reason which led us to consider making a good-quality dictionary for the Koch language.
We did not have any previous experience with Dictionary Development Programme (DDP); it was our first time to run a workshop of this kind. Only two months before the workshop, I had an opportunity to watch DDP presentations at a regional SIL conference in Bangalore. There I also received DDP instructions and auxiliary materials.
After carefully studying the DDP instructions and understanding the procedure, we discussed the matter with Mr. Kamaleshwar Koch from the All Meghalaya Koch Association (AMKA). He liked the idea of holding a workshop and promised to arrange the event. He talked with other KKM leaders, got the Meghalaya Koch Student Union (MKSU) involved, and invited several well-to-do individuals to contribute financially to the running of the workshop. The Koch students took up the task of printing the semantic domain templates, provided computers and typists, and arranged food and drinks. From our side, we provided the domain templates printed out in English, FieldWorks Flex dictionary software and stationery—folders, paper, pens, staplers and staples. We also brought several major-language dictionaries (Assamese, Hindi and English) and a picture book to assist the participants in word collection. Thankfully, most of the participants had some proficiency in English, which saved us from the huge task of getting the templates translated into some common local language.
Prior to the workshop, I tried to bring together some of the would-be participants to train them in word-collecting procedures, but for various reasons nobody was able to come. I managed to explain the procedures only occasionally to some of them. This, of course, affected the whole process of collecting words during the workshop sessions.
Day 1 (17 August)
The first session was held at the L.G.B School, Tura, West Garo Hills, Meghalaya, India. Kamaleshwar Koch and members of the MKSU did the logistics. The following guests of honour were present: Sibendra Narayan Koch, Upendra Hari Koch, Khalin Koch and Nirmal Koch.
For the inaugural part, we had 60 to 70 people. There was an opening session with lights kindled before the image of Saraswati (the Hindu goddess of knowledge) and a religious hymn. After that, I made an introductory speech and explained to the participants the procedure for collecting words. There were about 40 people who actually participated in word collection: mostly youths (boys and girls) and several senior persons from the KKM. They divided themselves into 7 groups, each working on a particular semantic domain. After the working day was over, the participants took the remaining work with them to complete at home.
Day 2 (31 August)
Guests of honour: S. N. Koch, Nirmal Koch.
All attendees (about 50) took part in the work. Many of them were new, coming for the first time. There were insufficient seats. However, this session was more productive than the previous one.
Sessions held in our absence
In the second week of September Anuradha and I had to leave Tura for some important work. Therefore, the following sessions took place in our absence:
14 September at Harigaon village;
21 September at Ampati town;
12 October at Harigaon village; 12 people were present.
Another session was scheduled for the 26th of October at Tura, but it did not take place, since nobody turned up.
Day 1 (17 August)
Semantic domains covered:
1.4 Living things
1.7 Nature, environment
6.9 Business organization
Problems: It took me a lot of time to explain the basic procedures to the participants and even after that, confusion prevailed. The participants tended to just translate the English example words, many of which were hard for them to understand.
Day 2 (31 August)
Most of the participants had not done their homework, so they continued working on it in class. Many folders were completed this time, and we returned them to the participants for the second check.
Problems: Many participants still did not understand that the purpose of this work was not to just translate the English examples. We had to explain it repeatedly.
By the first half of March 2009, I had collected 42 completed and partially completed DDP folders from the MKSU office. Seventeen folders were still missing. Meanwhile, I myself was entering the collected words into the Flex program as nobody among the Koch participants was interested in being trained to do it. The words were mostly written in Roman script, but sometimes in Assamese script. It was often hard to read the different handwriting styles. The main problem was the absence of a common orthography, so words were spelled in a number of different ways. In addition to the Koch DDP data, I was adding words from other sources: mainly from printed materials and oral stories.
30 September 2010: I finished entering the available data into FLEx! Words from the eight missing folders and from the uncompleted parts would have to be collected separately.
I was not able to do much in 2011 due to our family situation and Anuradha’s health. In the beginning of 2012, we left India and spent almost two years in Russia. I continued to collect and crosscheck words from written materials and oral stories. By the end of 2013, my FLEx database contained about 8,000 entries, but I realized I would not be able to make much progress in the absence of Koch native speakers. At that time, I began to think of the idea of launching an interactive online Koch dictionary. In December 2013, I registered on Webonary and, with the help of an SIL computer person, was able to transfer my FLEx data onto the newly created site: http://koch.webonary.org/.
We were able to visit Tura in early 2014 and get some Koch speakers involved in checking and improving the dictionary entries. At the same time, I am making the information about the online dictionary available among other Koch people, many of whom now have access to the Internet. In this way, we hope to have more people ready to participate in the improvement of the dictionary remotely.
Date: 17th February, 2014
Place: Tura, Meghalaya, India