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Feb 21, 2018

"We've made history - Bungu is on the map!"

Written by Stephen K.

ubungutranslitworkshp2018sml After years of research, the Bungu writing system was granted
official ‘trial' status. Now ready for their first-ever literacy
workshop, the team gathered materials and set out for
Mkwajuni town. (photo: Stephen Katterhenrich)

Bungu writing system now ready for testing, literacy training

- Mbeya, Tanzania

After years of research and testing, the Bungu team received a very encouraging email: the writing system they developed has finally been granted Trial Orthography status. "It's an official way to describe our progress," explained Stephen Katterhenrich, the team's Translation Advisor. "It means that our Bungu writing system makes sense and may work well, so let's continue to test it out."

Suddenly, the team was ready for the first-ever Bungu literacy workshop. They quickly prepared some materials, and set off for Mkwajuni town...

ubungutranslitworkshp2018 During the first-ever Bungu language literacy workshop, participants
spent four intense days learning to read and write their own
challenging tonal language. (photo Stephen Katterhenrich)

About fifteen people participated in the workshop. Although they speak Bungu everyday, reading and writing proved to be more difficult. "Bungu has a challenging tonal system," said Katterhenrich. "Writing it down involves a tricky system of symbols. The national language, Swahili, is quite simple in comparison."

After four days of intense lessons, everyone involved were mentally exhausted. Learning their new system proved difficult and, even after four days, most had not mastered it. Throughout the week, the team heard people say, "Bungu is hard," but also, "Bungu is easy!" Because it is their own language, some things came very easily to them and they managed to understand the basics.

"The rest will come with time and experience," said Katterhenrich. "It was a joy to see people reading and writing for the first time in their language."

ubungulitwkshpteachersmll A Bungu literacy team member teaches a lesson on how to read and
write the language's challenging tonal system. About fifteen Bungu
speakers took part in the four day workshop, the first-ever held
in the Bungu community (photo: Stephen Katterhenrich)

"The higher aim of this transitional literacy workshop," added Frank Mwaluanda (the team's Literacy Specialist), "was not just to teach some random people to read and write Bungu. Rather, we want to find Bungu speakers who are willing and capable to become teachers themselves."

The workshop participants were very happy, especially to see their language written down. They said, "Now our language will be preserved. We've made history - and put Bungu on the map!"

Adapted from reporting by: Stephen Katterhenrich (Translation Advisor),

Karin Yalonde (Literacy Specialist), and Frank Mwaluanda (Literacy Specialist)

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