Thursday, October 15, 2009

Five, er, Twelve Golden Rings

Because I am interested in where the people who visit my blog are from, I installed that Feedjit thingy over there in the left sidebar to record your visits. When I see a country that has not visited before, I save its flag on my hard drive. Currently I have 97 different flags saved on my hard drive. The most recent addition, just yesterday, was Ghana.

Ghana (not to be confused with Guinea or Guyana) is located in West Africa. Specifically, it is bordered on the west by Côte d’Ivoire (formerly Ivory Coast), on the east by Togo (formerly French Togoland), on the north by Burkino Faso (formerly the Republic of Upper Volta), and on the south by the Gulf of Guinea (formerly part of the Atlantic Ocean -- oops, I mean, part of the Atlantic Ocean).

Ghana made me sit up and take notice because some friends of ours, Andy and Kate Ring, have lived in Ghana for most of the past thirty years. There must be something in Ghanaian water, because they eventually had ten children: Thad, Isaac, Toby, Ben, Hiram, Seth, Ethan, John, Alisha, and Mary. (To be fair, several of the children were born before the Rings went to Ghana.) One time I said to Andy, “I know what you’re trying to do, Andy. You’re trying singlehandedly to bring baseball to West Africa.” The Rings lived in northern Ghana, in Tamale (TOM-uh-lee, not tuh-MAH-lee as in Spanish):

When we met them in 1975, Andy was completing an MA in Structural Linguistics at Florida Atlantic University. Andy now holds a PhD in Sociolinguistics from Georgetown University, and Kate holds an MA in Social Sciences from Azusa Pacific University. A few months after we met them, the Rings joined Wycliffe Bible Translators. After attending Wycliffe’s Jungle Camp in Mexico for several months, they eventually moved to Ghana in 1979. They started translation work among the Lelemi-speaking people in 1981. In 1995, the Ring family and a team of Ghanaian co-workers brought the Lelemi New Testament to completion. More recently, Andy (I should call him Dr. Ring) has been a pioneer in combining computers and teams of native translators from different language groups who met together regularly in what was called the Volta Region Multi-Project (VRMP). As a result, and much faster than previously, they recently completed four New Testaments in Selee (seh-LAY), Sekpele (SEK-peh-leh), Tuwuli (TOO-willy), and Siwu (SEE-woo). I'm sure I'm showing you only the tip of the iceberg about the work Andy Ring has done involving linguistics.

Apart from their translation work, the Rings have led survey teams in Ghana to identify languages still needing translation. According to Wikipedia, the 2009 edition of the Ethnologue contains statistics for 7,358 languages in the world (not all scholars share the same set of criteria for what constitutes a ‘language’ and what features define a ‘dialect’) and 580 of these are in Ghana (but see the Update at the end of this post. --RWP). Officially, the language of Ghana is English, but there are nine other government-sponsored languages recognized by Ghana's Bureau of Ghana Languages: Akan, Dagaare/Wale, Dagbane, Dangme, Ewe, Ga, Gonja, Kasem, and Nzema. In addition, Twi and Fante (two dialects of Akan), although not government-sponsored, are widely-spoken in Ghana, and Hausa is widely used by Muslims in Ghana.

And you thought learning Spanish was hard.

On April 18, 2009, the Sekpele New Testament was dedicated in Likpe-Maate. Mr. George Maalug Kombian, the acting director of GILLBT (Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy, and Bible Translation), said that the New Testament has now been translated into 20 Ghanaian languages and the entire Holy Bible (Old and New Testaments) has been translated into 3 languages by GILLBT.

Here are recent photos of Kate (with Mary) and Andy (with one of his paintings):

(Photos © Andy & Kate Ring)

I almost forgot. The flag of Ghana looks like this:

[Update. I have received an e-mail from Andy Ring saying he believes the reference in Wikipedia to 580 languages in Ghana is incorrect. He thinks 580 is the correct figure for the number of languages in Nigeria. Andy also included a link to this page in the current Ethnologue that puts the number of languages in Ghana at 79. I apologize for the incorrect figure in my original post. -- RWP, Oct. 20, 2009]


  1. My friend's daughter and s-i-l are translators with Wycliffe. Prissy and Kelly have been in Brazil for at least 20 years. Kelly is the pilot for the endeavor there.

    I believe there is something in the water also, as this young couple had five children in an extremely short time there.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. The thought of speaking a language called Twi somewhat blows my mind...

  4. it is nice for me to know how prolific some people are, since the lord's first commandment to the children of men and women was to mulitple and replentish the earth, and to me multiple is more than 1 times 1

  5. oh and p.s. you don't have a flag of my country UTAR, displayed prominently anywhere, oh yes i know what you are going to say is always about ME

  6. Sissy - Kelly is probably with JAARS, then.

    Jinksy (Penny) - Ewe affects me similarly.

    Putz (David) - As you well know, Utah is a state, not a country. I saved the U.S. flag to cover all of us here at home.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. This was really interesting. My son is a graphic artist here in the States for a missions group. He does the newsletters, teaching material, etc. for the field missionaries. He works with New Mission Systems, Intl.

  9. Wow. I started reading a blog about Ghana and discovered the powerful work of a missionary family.Well done.

  10. Thanks also to Rosezilla (Tracie) and Dr. John (Dr. John) for your kind comments.

  11. What admirable work they are doing.

    And congrats on visitors from so many countries.