Torch, Spring 1978

New Light in the Dark An interviewwithRev. GeraldAllenFisher "/ want to make the Word of God as clear to the Africans as it was to the Greeks." This remark by linguist Allen Fishersummarizes the importance of translating the inspiredWordof God. The challenges and frustrations of converting the Bible into a new dialect are revealed in this timely interview. TORCH: Allen, how did you become interested in translation work? FISHER: My parents, Dr. and Mrs. Gerald Fisher, were missionaries in theCentral AfricanRepublic for 20 years. I had all of my grade school training in Africa. So, I suppose you could say that I just grew up as amissionary. An interest in linguistic work developed in my life, and I graduated as the first foreign language major at Cedarville College in 1966. TORCH: Does your wife, Ruth, have asimilar background? FISHER: Well, yes and no! Although Ruth did not grow up in a foreign country, her interest in missions began years ago in her home church. The pastor, Rev. Roy Hammond, had served several terms as amissionary in the Republic of Chad. He created a strong missions awareness in that church. TORCH: After graduating from Cedarville, what preparation did you receive for your work? FISHER: I earned amaster's degree in palestinology at The American Institute/ Hebrew University in Israel. I alsoattended two linguistic institutes and read quite extensively. Ruth also studied linguistics in both Switzerland and England after graduating from Cedarville in 1969. TORCH: Where did you begin your missionary service? FISHER: After a year of language perfection in France, I spent three years in Chad from 1967 to 1971. After that termof serviceRuth and I were married and, in April of 1973, we arrived in Chad where I had planned to continue translation work. However, by Novemberof that year "events" in the government had forced our departure.We fled to the United States. Almost everything we owned was destroyed or stolen. TORCH: What did you do then? FISHER: After five months in the States we sailed for Liberia with the purpose of establishing Linguisticwork in the IvoryCoast. That was accomplished, and we have been serving in the Ivory Coast since December of 1974. TORCH: What is themain thrust of your work? FISHER: We have reduced the Neao dialect of the Guere language towriting. We have also produced literacy materials for teaching people to read their own language. But the most important task has been that of translating the Bible into Neao. TORCH: Had any previous linguistic work been done in this dialect? FISHER: Hardly any. In fact, the government had received nothing in regard to this dialect which, for all practical purposes, is a distinct language. Only those who have travelled widely in the country are able to understand other dialects of the Guere language. TORCH: Why did you feel it was important to reduce this language to writing? FISHER: The purpose was to provide theWord of God in the language of the people. Only half of the children and very few of the adults can speak or read French, which is the official language of the Ivory Coast.