In 1970 Geoffrey & Rosemary Hunt, now members of Seer Green Baptist church, went to Ghana under the auspices of Wycliffe Bible Translators. They had studied linguistics prior to going and were asked to work in the Hanga (hunga) language, a language with only a few thousand speakers. Prior to their going there, the language had never been written; communication was only by speech, so any education had to be in the national language, English, and this was very ineffective as a teaching medium.
In 1971 Geoffrey & Rosemary settled into a Hanga village for a period of about 10 years. There was no electricity and no running water, not even a well for getting clean water. They did not have a vehicle and were five miles from the main road, a dirt road. The most difficult thing was that the language, a tonal language, was different from anything they had ever encountered before. They started off like babies learning to understand and speak Hanga.
It took four or five years to gain enough knowledge of the language to be able to speak it and to analyse it for the purpose of creating an effective literacy program. Literacy books had to be prepared: this included the reading and writing primers, reading books, educational books and biblical books, including, later on, the whole New Testament.
The writing system was prepared just for this rather isolated language, but even so, we were surprised when we found that a lot of young people were able to learn to read and write their own language in four or five weeks and, at that time, could write a reasonable letter of thanks, to say how much they had achieved and even to ask for some specific need.
When the New Testament became available, Hanga young people read it and decided to follow Christ. Before this there had been no indigenous Hanga church. There are now nine indigenous Hanga churches.
Geoffrey & Rosemary left Ghana early in 1982, but in September 2009 they received a letter from some Hanga Christians who said that they would like the Old Testament of the Bible as well as the New Testament. So, at the beginning of 2011, Geoffrey returned to Ghana to work with the Hanga Christians.
In the 1970’s, all the work had to be done using pencil and paper, but by 2011, computers were available and powerful software for doing Bible translation. This meant that the two trainee Bible translators had to learn to use a computer, including typing, and also learn the principles of translation.
This work is still continuing, mostly over the Internet, with one four-week trip to Ghana each year.
Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy & Bible Translation