More than just word collection!
The Rapoisi RWC workshop was held in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, an island cluster scarred by a decade-long civil war in the 1990s. At the workshop's Closing several local leaders said, "We have not had a gathering like this in many years. Some of us were worried about tensions left over from the war years; we have just seen that we can still work together. In fact, we have realized this week that we must work together to preserve our language and culture!" One man said, "A new era is starting in Rapoisi."
Coordinators: George Ribisi, Rapoisi Bible Translator; Joseph Novera (Logistics)
Consultants: Kim & Steve Blewett, SIL linguists working longterm with the Rapoisi language
Trainees: Thonny Tetena, Translation Consultant Advanced Trainee; Goldie Kera, Solos Bible Translator
Technical Assistants: Christina Toy & Hannah Jackson, Discover Program university students from the USA
The two "Discover Students" were invaluable to the smooth running of the workshop. Christina was Record Keeper; Hannah was Typing Coordinator with the two trainees as typists. They capably handled all the pre-course printing and folder organization as well as all the computer usage during the workshop. Their linguistics studies made them able to answer questions and participate in problem solving with the domains as well.
Thonny and Goldie, Bougainvilleans from other language groups, typed words and answered questions about the Questionnaire, and developed good rappoire with the Rapoisi community, helping to raise awareness about SIL and the ongoing translation projects in the region. They plan to coordinate RWC workshops in other languages.
The Rapoisi RWC workshop was held during school holidays to allow for local teachers to attend, but many of them had other responsibilities or were hindered by the weather. The teachers who did attend were very helpful—most served as scribes.
Weather hindered attendance during the 3-day Pre-Training: 18 people were expected, but 9-11 actually attended. These people became the initial Team Leaders and Scribes, but several later joined the Glossers team as other participants took on jobs. Weather also hindered attendance at the main RWC workshop: Due to heavy rains a large river remained in flood stage throughout Week 1, blocking many people from attending until Week 2. Others came for Week 1 but were occupied during Week 2, so those who were able to attend for both weeks (29 people) trained the latecomers. This accounts for the large number of total participants.
Enthusiasm was high. If 85 people had come every day I don't know what would have happened, so perhaps the weather was a blessing in disguise! As the workshop progressed enthusiasm grew; it was FUN.
On Day 1 we did training for much of the day, but groups split off sooner than expected—they were so excited about actually writing down words that they quit listening to the whole-group discussion. In the future the leadership team needs to make this harder to do, because the participants would have benefitted from more practice.
On Day 2 we formed 6 groups including a Medical group, who worked on the Body and medical-related folders. Most of the Medical group members spent Day 5 glossing the medical terms they had collected, because many of them would be unavailable during Week 2. After this a traditional medicine expert formed a "Plants" group, which named over 400 items. These items need proper identification, which was not possible during the workshop.
Overnight on Day 2 several half-finished folders were stolen, along with one of the two solar batteries and a few other items. By Day 9 these folders had not been retrieved so those Questionnaire sections were reprinted and reprocessed.
On Day 4 two more word-collecting groups formed, and 8-9 groups continued for most of the workshop. With avg. 49 participants, the 6 groups were too big for efficient work, and it proved impossible to enforce a time limit so word collection was going very slowly. The Team Leader and Scribe jobs rotated among participants somewhat, giving people chances to try out these jobs.
Glossing proved the hardest task of the workshop. Four people worked full-time (mostly alone rather than in groups) on this. These glossers did a great job; but no one else could be convinced to stick with it for more than a day. On Saturday morning the four glossers offered to work to catch up.
On Day 6 we had a major turnover in participants, as noted above. However, 18 participants were present on Day 6 who had attended all of Week 1. We paired new people with these experienced leaders, who did good training in the groups.
With two solar power systems, in spite of the rainy weather there was enough power for 5 low-powered computers to run most days, along with several tablets/phones that provided dictionaries for the glossers. On Day 10 there was not enough power to print the full wordlist for participants to take home, but this was done at the closing ceremony and meal the following day. Three copies of the wordlist were printed so that each participant could take home five pages.
At the end of Day 9 most of the domain folders had been completed, and the stack of folders to be glossed was huge—around 5,000 words.
On Day 10, as each group completed its last folder they took it back to gloss as a group, and the 8 groups continued glossing throughout the day, reducing the unglossed stack by half! This glossing by the word-collection groups worked very well, and it may be tried more intentionally in future RWC workshops here in Bougainville, where many people were afraid their English skills were not good enough for glossing; but the groups that were comfortable working together were able to gloss very effectively.
Participants found it very difficult to think of local animal names using the RWC Questionnaire (Domains under 1.6). This island environment has very little 'animal husbandry', no native large mammals, no primates. Sea creatures and freshwater creatures are very important to their diet, and are viewed completely separately in the Rapoisi worldview. Crustaceans, shellfish & other such life appear in the final, miscellaneous domain of Domain 1.6, and the scientific-type descriptions given in the questionnaire were not understood by the participants, so the two huge groups of freshwater and saltwater "non-fish" animals were almost completely missed.
Three of the outside consultants reworked this domain into more natural categories and three folders were re-collected, resulting in a much better list of these animals. Books of birds, reef fish, shells helped in identifying many of the species in these domains. We created a new domain structure, 1.8 with subdomains, for the reorganized Animal data because that was easier and faster than trying to revise the existing 1.6 subdomains while the workshop was in process. We will seek advice as to how to use this localized domain structure for future workshops in Pacific Island culture groups.
Scientific animal taxonomy just did not seem to work as a word-collecting strategy in this culture. Perhaps the structure of Domain 1.6, based on western science, could be used as a supplementary reference; experts could add those domains to dictionary entries later on, with more "emic" categorizations of the animal world used for word collection where appropriate.
Much of Domain 9 - Grammar, was skipped because only a few Rapoisi speakers have experience to discuss syntax and morphology. The existing Rapoisi lexicon contains most of the morphology information, and it was decided to tag existing entries with Semantic Domain numbers rather than collecting and re-entering them. At least 200 affixes were tagged during the workshop, and these entries added into the "words collected" total on Day 9. More work on Domain 9 will be done later on, though this is perhaps not a high priority for Raposi speakers.
The biggest evaluation comment was that the English used in the Questionnaire was too complex, and that many of the example words were not relevant (especially American and British idioms that are not used here). If people had trouble understanding a Domain topic they were more likely to try to translate the example words rather than producing words from their own experience, so making the Questionnaire more understandable is important.
Recommendation: the Questionnaire should be revised for Pacific Island culture groups, with Tok Pisin used (in PNG) where it seems needed, especially for example words/phrases. Tok Pisin additions will likely help Vanuatu and Solomon Islands teams to customize the Questionnaire for Bislama and Pijin, if desired. The problem is finding someone with time available to do this job!
Total raw words
The "total raw words" figure was modified to reflect "words glossed," because Response Sheets were coming in with huge numbers of cross-offs, especially during the first week: duplicated words or multiple forms (in spite of the fact that "citation form" is an easy concept in this language). The Record Keeper decided to modify the "words collected" entry for each domain to reflect the number of glossed words. Total gross words per day were recorded and kept separately, but the running total had the crossed-off words returned that day subtracted from the gross total. Total gross words collected were over 18,000, but this is not an accurate reflection of "words collected." In spite of leaders' continued reminders not to write multiple forms of a word, one or two groups kept doing this!
Cleanup was postponed because the best people to do cleanup were those who were present for pre-training; everyone was tired after 2-1/2 weeks and needing to return to other duties. Also, a break in the weather allowed for the outside team to travel on Monday after the Closing; it was felt that we should take advantage of the available transport.
September 2015 was tentatively set for a cleanup and glossing session at the small SIL Centre in Buka town. Team coordinators, consultants and up to five of the scribes and glossers will meet at this time, to finish glossing the remaining 2,000+ words and to correct spelling and glossing errors. After this the wordlist will be placed onto Webonary.org, and Rapoisi speakers living outside the area will be invited to comment from their expertise.
Identification of the large number of plants will require a separate workshop (in the language area, with photo collection included) led by someone with botanical experience; this is understood but not yet scheduled. At least one scientist who could lead this, a Rapoisi speaker, was identified.