Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bob's Thoughts: Force Multiplier

There is a principle in engineering known as mechanical advantage. Another phrase sometimes used is “force multiplier”. What these terms refer to is the idea that you can use a device to take the force you're using and make it greater, often by many times. I'm sure everyone in school has done some variation of the experiment where you try to lift a bag of rice or something, and then lift the same bag with a pulley system, and been able to easily feel how much less effort is required. The force that you used before with no advantage could be multiplied many times by the presence of mechanical advantage. Mankind has learned to use mechanical advantage to achieve things that would've been impossible otherwise.
There are over 2,000 languages left in the world with no translation project even started. Wycliffe's goal is to see a project started for each of these before the year 2025. This looks like an impossible goal. However, information technology in the field of Bible translation is a form of mechanical advantage. When a translator is translating the Bible, a certain amount of effort is required, under any circumstances. Learning the language well, finding the precise meaning of words, checking the grammar and phrases used to make sure they're accurate, all of this is effort that cannot be eliminated. However, computers can enhance these efforts, making them more efficient and more effective. Editing a manuscript on a computer is often much quicker than handwriting and re-handwriting it. Computer programs allow much greater efficiency in such tasks as cataloging a language, developing a precise orthography (writing system), communicating with colleagues or consultants, or studying Bible passages to ensure proper translation.
Computers are essential to productivity in these modern times, and this applies to Bible translation just as much as other areas. In many areas of the world, Bible translators have to work through the inevitable computer glitches or problems because there is no one onsite who can be dedicated exclusively to clearing these problems up for them. Their efficiency is lowered while they try to solve these problems on their own in an area that isn't their expertise. My goal is to contribute my expertise to keeping the computers of Wycliffe Nigeria Group running smoothly so that translators and other members of Wycliffe Nigeria can focus their expertise on their assigned areas. More than simply fixing computers, my work will be enabling dozens of people to utilize the gifts God's given them much more effectively, thus multiplying their efforts many times over. We are each playing our small part to getting God's Word to those who need it most: the overlooked, forgotten and marginalized in today's world.
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