Working in Language Clusters
To help achieve Vision 2025 with greater speed, efficiency, and quality Wycliffe has been exploring new strategies, including a language family strategy. This involves working in language clusters within the Bantu language family.
What is a Cluster?
A language program cluster can be defined as two or more language groups (often closely related) who will work together with a shared language development strategy, sharing personnel and resources. Languages may be grouped together to form a cluster based on:
- linguistic relatedness
- social relationships
- geographic proximity
- number of churches/denominations working among the same languages
The Cluster Team
A team approach is an essential element of the strategy. Most likely, the cluster approach will not be applied to all the languages of Tanzania and Uganda but where it is applied, it will require working together as a team. By team, we are not referring to a team that addresses the needs of a particular language but a bigger team – a cluster team - that addresses the needs of a cluster. The team members share the responsibility for all of the languages in the cluster, working as part of the larger team. Initial orientation and team development work is vital, including:
- developing a sense of shared ownership
- mutual appreciation of each others gifts and skills
- sharing decision-making
- honoring one another
The vision for the Bantu Initiative grew out of a desire of four organizations to see Scriptures available to the approximately 250 Bantu language communities that do not have Scriptures in their heart languages (mother-tongue). This can only be accomplished through a partnership of stakeholders working together to develop language program strategies and resources that take advantage of Bantu linguistic and cultural similarities.
In Tanzania, one of the first cluster projects began in the Mbeya Region. In 2006 a cluster project will begin in the Mara Region of Tanzania. This project will result in gaining more experience in joint planning and decision-making with partners, as well as to test Bantu linguistic and cultural tools that are being developed.
One component of the Bantu Initiative is to support and encourage the development of linguistic tools that can describe the common features of Bantu languages and so speed up language analysis. Tools to serve many Bantu languages are currently being developed, tested, and either completed or nearing completion (such as Adapt It). These tools are for phonology (sound system), grammar, discourse, dictionary, and orthography and they will be utilized in the Mara Region cluster project.
Find out more on Bantu Languages: Statistics