The Neno language has some impressive tricks up its sleeve. There is a phenomenon that linguists call…well, actually, I can’t remember the term, even though we must have covered it in linguistics class. That class was in Portuguese anyway, so most of you wouldn’t understand. Let’s just forget about linguistic terms, since I am not a linguist. I’m a language learner and a servant of Jesus Christ. My goal is not to analyze, alphabetize, and grammatize the Neno language. That has already been done, thank goodness. My goal is to live the Neno language, with the goal of speaking it just as they do, so that I can clearly communicate God’s Word in their cultural context.
That means that I do need to somehow understand or deal with the tricks, however. Back to one of the tricks the Neno language likes to play on unsuspecting language learners. The Gs are forever turning into Ks, or is it the Ks that are turning into Gs? Can anyone really tell? I certainly can’t. All I know is that if I am talking about a crop area in general, it is a ga. If I am talking about Mariana’s crop area, it is a ka. If we are discussing my mouth, it is unGu. Your mouth is enGu. If we decide to discuss someone else’s mouth, it is xiKu. (The un, en, and xi parts are people markers, with function similar to the separate words used to discuss my mouth, your mouth or her mouth in English). But the actual part of the word that means mouth changes from gu to ku.
The Ps and Bs like to switch back and forth too, without notice, often completely throwing me completely off track in attempts to deduce sentence meaning. I need to start paying attention to the Ds and Ts, because they comprise another “suspect pair” which might participate in the Sneaky Switcharoo Sound Trick. No, that is not an actual linguist term. Nothing against what we studied in linguistics, phonetics, and phonology; I actually loved those classes and put them into practice every day, without remembering the textbook terms. Remember that I am not an actual linguist, and thus have the prerogative to come up with fun, catchy names. Besides, you must admit that you are far more likely to remember to pray for Paulette and her coworkers as we deal with the “Sneaky Switcharoo Sounds Trick” than you would if I told you the technical name for the phenomenon. Perhaps in another post, I will share a bit of basic linguistics. For now, just pray for me, my coworkers, and our Neno friends and teachers.
Each week, I can tell we are making progress (Jesus, great Neno teachers of all ages, and myself), but it’s not fast enough. There are children growing up so quickly, who need to hear about Jesus while they are still young, before the world pulls them away. There are parents raising them who need to know the Biblical principles for family life and teaching children. There are elderly people who might not understand what salvation is, and don’t have much longer to hear the complete story of what Jesus did for them and how they can know for certain if they will go to Heaven when they die.
Some Neno friends are trying their hardest to trudge their way through reading the Bible in their second language, Portuguese, with very little understanding. They have so many questions about spiritual things, which I cannot answer yet. Since the eventual goal is teaching the Bible, my current and pressing ministry is clear. Acquisition of Culture and Language. While enjoyable and sometimes just plain fun, it can also be daunting and overwhelming, especially considering the urgency of the bigger picture. Without your prayers and God’s answers, my coworkers and I would surely fail. But with God, all things are possible. Thank you for engaging in this monumental task with us, through your prayers.