God is good. We made it back and forth to southern Senegal safely, and now I’ve even made it back to Burkina Faso. Let me share with you a little bit about our PGA (People Group Assessment) trip. The pictures are in the next blog post.
A few of the main goals of this PGA trip were to see what the reality looked like in the tribe, see if the report done in 2007 still looked like it represented the current situation, and see if they were multilingual and/or still using their language. We were able to accomplish all of those in our few short days!
On Thursday we drove down there, leaving Dakar at 3am. That gave us time to talk to several different government officials to explain what we were planning on doing and get permission to continue on.
On Friday we had two more government officials to talk to, and then were able to start talking to the people themselves in the big village where we stayed the night. We collected a 200 word list in their language and went through a questionnaire with well over a dozen people, asking questions about what languages they know, which ones they prefer to speak, and which ones they speak when.
On Saturday we took a boat ride and then a hike to get to three different villages on an island which is the recognized homeland of these Jola people. There we talked to government people again, did more questionnaires, and got another 200 word list (that way we were able to compare how similar the language spoken on the islands is to that on the mainland).
On Sunday we left at about 6:30am for the ride back to Dakar. The trip took us 12 hours since we had to wait for 4 hours to take the ferry across the river in Gambia. At least we could get out and stretch our legs, as well as even buy some snacks.
It was an exhausting but good trip. I was amazed at the level of French ability everywhere we went – I didn’t always even need a translator! They also said that they speak many different languages, and so when they meet someone of a different people group they will speak whatever language that person understands. However, it was clear that they much prefer their own language. The questionnaires actually got rather boring, since the answers were all the same – everyone could speak multiple languages but they would speak their own language with their family and in the stores and everywhere they could. They also like to speak their language and believe that when the kids grow up they will still speak their native language to their children. They don’t appear to be in danger of losing their language any time soon!
Will NTM go and work among these people? I don’t know. That’s not my job to decide. The team and I are writing up a report about the trip, which will then be presented to the NTM leadership. Then it’s up to them to decide. I’m glad that they get that job. As for me, I get to start preparing for the next PGA trips here in Burkina Faso in a few months, as well as continue to work on my Jula and my culture and my relationships.