Excelling in Linguistics | Wycliffe Bible Translators

Excelling in Linguistics

  • October 8, 2014
  • By: Bill Gardner with Richard Gretsky

While my wife and I were serving with Wycliffe in Africa, I was asked to teach linguistics to university students, first in Mozambique (in Portuguese) and then in Kenya (in English). I hadn’t originally set out to be a teacher—I actually studied electrical engineering in college—but it has gone so well that my wife and I have been invited to teach full-time at one of Wycliffe’s training programs in North America. We are really looking forward to it!

Why do we love teaching linguistics? What motivates us? It’s the people. When you are training you often have three different groups of people, and each type is uniquely valuable. The first group is those who really struggle learning the concepts. With them, we’re happy to simply help them move forward. The second group is those who learn what we teach and apply it, confidently able to do the work themselves. Both of those are fine, but it’s the third group that really encourages and speaks to us. They are the people we train who really run with the information; they’re the ones who learn the material and immediately start looking for pastors and other people to teach.  

Again, all people are valuable, but it’s those moments when everything clicks for someone and they catch a passion for what they’ve just learned—that’s truly what we live for!

My goal as a linguistics teacher is to be like a master craftsman, apprenticing others to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes they will need to be successful and effective out in the field. And my hope is that some of those journeymen will in turn go on to train others. That’s what the apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to do: “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.” (2 Timothy 2:2, NLT).

It has been so rewarding to see Africans we have trained go on to become Bible translators and translation and Scripture engagement consultants—putting into practice what they have learned and also passing it on to others. That’s one of the most important things that keeps us motivated in teaching students and helping pass on the vision for bringing God’s Word to everyone who still needs it.

And we’re happy to fulfill that role.

For over 30 years, William and his wife, Lori, have worked as linguists with Wycliffe. During that time, they’ve lived in the Philippines, Republic of the Congo, Mozambique and Kenya, and will soon be heading to Canada to teach at the Canada Institute of Linguistics. To find out more, read about how Bill has applied his skills in “Engineering Translation.”