Too few or too many accents

In three languages of Chad, representing 1 million speakers between them, readers (even those fluent in French) were having trouble understanding their language in written form. So the language committees sent some of their key people to attend an SIL workshop on phonology and writing systems. The approach was very practical and after 3 weeks, the participants had not only identified the main points of the phonology of their language, but they also had the results of their investigation into possible ways of changing their writing system. For all three languages, this meant a change in how tone was written. One language had not been writing tone, another had written tone marks everywhere which had been overwhelming and a third had been writing the letter h to represent tone changes, but in an inconsistent way. The participants found the main possibilities for a consistent writing system which was also in line with Government guidelines, and these were presented to their communities in the forms of posters which were displayed at the closing ceremony. After the ceremony, the guests were given the option of going to the refreshments table or examining the posters – and they all chose to look at the posters, such was their enthusiasm for developing their languages. These languages are now making the final decisions for a new writing system – one that can be read with ease.

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