An update from Paul Lewis
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December 2015

News from Paul Lewis
Serving with SIL International & Wycliffe Bible Translators
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

It is hard to believe that 2015 is drawing to a close already. The year has flown by for me and I am very much looking forward to the holidays when all of my kids and grandkids will be around for a few days and we'll have time to enjoy each other's presence (and presents!). These family times are precious and full of fun and laughter.  The new house is pretty much in order now and my daughter, Sara, and I have been busy finding places for the Christmas decorations, deciding on where the tree should go, and just settling in to what is proving to be a very comfortable and convenient home.  We are blessed.

On the work front, I'm happy to say that I have completed my part of the work on "The Book".  My co-author is handling getting it ready to turn over to the publishing department and then they will run it through their process.  That could take months so we're hoping to see it published by this time next year.  It's already being used though, in electronic form, as the textbook for several classes, and the principles we teach in the book are being applied widely. Almost every week I receive a report of the concepts being used somewhere and how much indigenous people in minority language communities are appreciating and benefiting from the ideas we have developed.

In addition, I have been keeping more than busy with the Ethnologue as we begin to ramp up for the production of the 19th edition due to be released in late February 2016.  I've mentioned that we launched a new online editing interface which we call OSCAR.  That has proved to be a huge help in allowing us to edit the Ethnologue data much more quickly and easily.  It continues to be developed and improved with new features being added almost daily.  Behind the scenes, however, we had to make some major changes to the database in order to get OSCAR to work, and that has meant that we need to do a lot of database cleanup (read: mindless repetitive reformatting of 10,000 plus data records) in order to be able to produce the next edition.  Most of those changes will serve us well in the long run, but right now, many of the automated processes that we had in place "broke" when we changed the database. All of those need to be recreated, tested, and put back into service before the beginning of February so that we can prepare the 19th edition on time. The good news is that I don't have to work on the programming part of it, but the bad news is that I do have to do or oversee the "mindless repetitive" stuff. 

In addition there are a few new things that we'd like to add to the Ethnologue this time and those require a good bit of data entry and checking. While we have the added advantage of now having nearly 30 Field Contributors who are using OSCAR to enter and update information about the languages of the Pacific and the Americas (and a tiny bit of Asia), it falls to me and my co-editors to  approve all of the changes that others are making.  That sort of detailed proofreading work is not what I'm good at or enjoy, so I'm struggling to both keep up, stay awake (!) and stay happy.  Nothing worse than a grumpy editor!

During this last month, we have learned the results of some "marketing research" that has been done to see how effective and useful the Ethnologue is as an online resource.  It's been a bit overwhelming to learn that the website gets nearly 200,000 visitors each month and that it ranks near the top in terms of its usefulness and access.  One of the researchers told us that the Ethnologue website is "the ESPN of language websites".  That's both encouraging and daunting as we realize how successful the 65 years of research has been that has created this resource and, at the same time, what a great responsibility we have to get things right and to make the "state of the world's languages" as clearly understood as possible. We also want it to be a testimony to the competence and ability of Christian scholarship as we do the best work we can in service to a large and very diverse audience. And, one of the challenges we face now is how to maintain this gigantic project.  Increased use and visibility comes at a cost. On the first of December, we launched a subscription service which affects only a small percentage of Ethnologue users - those who access more than 7 different data pages each month- and only users in "high income" countries.  We have been pretty much forced to go in this direction because of the high costs of developing and maintaining the website and that decision has not been received happily by some.  I could write a little sermon here (but I won't) about how Christians (who believe that the created universe is wonderfully and beautifully made) should value and financially support the sort of strategic research that we do, but sadly the Body, at least in the United States, seems to be more and more moving away from thoughtful inquiry. Please pray for wisdom, patience, and grace for those of us who have to deal with the email and other feedback we are receiving.

Looking ahead, January is filling up and I'll be doing a bit more traveling than I had expected.  Before I write to you again, I'll attend the annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America being held in Washington D.C.  My role there will be to represent the Ethnologue and invite the many linguists who gather during this conference to provide us with updated information about the languages that they know best.  You could be praying for that event.  Our recent decision to begin the subscription makes it likely that I'll be asked to explain and defend that change repeatedly.

There are tentative plans for other travels later in the month as well, but I'll tell you more about that when I write again in January. The rest of the year is likely going to be very busy as well. Your prayer and financial support is essential to enabling me to contribute to God's Mission in the world, and I am grateful.

I pray that you and yours will have a wonderful season of celebrating the birth of the Savior and that the grace of His Spirit will surround you as we enter 2016.

Many blessings,

Copyright © 2015 *|M. Paul Lewis|*, All rights reserved.

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