Have you ever watched the contestants on a TV game show engaged in a brain battle?
Recently men and women in two remote PNG villages in Oro Province held a similar contest, in their case in a duel to identify the best readers in the village. For weeks before the competition, readers practiced the chosen four chapters of Luke. They worked on correct pronunciation, smoothness, and intonation. A few minutes before the competition was to begin, they were given their assigned portion of about ten verses to read.
When Jim and Joan Farr and representatives of the Baruga translation team arrived in the village, the people were ready. A crowd gathered to listen as each competitor read their assigned verses aloud. The translation team served as the judges, carefully noting uncorrected reading mistakes while simultaneously rating for smoothness and intonation.
One lady who entered the contest was from a different language group and only had two years of formal schooling. She participated because she wanted to encourage others by her example. Another exemplary competitor was a teenage girl who is only in 4th grade but who was by far the best reader in her village. Although the Farrs were disappointed that no children chose to participate, they were happy about the enthusiasm of the adults for improving their literacy skills.
Every participant received a homemade bookmark that was a gift from school-aged children in one of the Farr’s churches in America. Winners picked from various prizes, such as school supplies and cooking utensils. In addition, they acquired a lasting treasure, the ability to read aloud fluently.
A renewed interest in reading and improved literacy skills were not the only benefits of the competition. The contest also identified excellent readers, many of whom will soon participate in the audio recording of the Baruga New Testament, scheduled to begin later this year. Translator Jim Farr commented, “It was very apparent that even a small amount of regular reading practice paid big dividends in fluency.”
The next time a game show plays on your TV screen, think of the Baruga contestants and their diligence to master reading in a way that is expressive, natural, and easy for the hearers to understand.