In 2014, Rachael Costello graduated from GIAL with an M.A. in Applied Linguistics with a concentration in Bible Translation. Today, she is a Bible translation consultant working with a team of mother-tongue translators to translate the Old Testament into Mixteco de Jicaltepec, an indigenous language in Mexico.
Rachael’s journey in linguistics began rather unexpectedly. While attending the University of Kansas, she discovered a set of linguistics courses listed in the course catalog, took a couple of them, and did well. She also met several graduate students in linguistics and, while looking at their homework, thought, “I could do that!” A few years later, she found herself graduating with a double major in Linguistics and International Studies.
With this academic groundwork behind her, Rachael eventually joined Wycliffe Bible Translators, who directed her to GIAL for further training in 2009. After completing the core requirements for fieldwork in Mexico, Rachael spent a few years traveling back and forth between Dallas and Mexico, gathering language data and preparing to write her thesis.
Thanks to GIAL’s unique session-based schedule (each semester is divided into four parts called “sessions”), Rachael was able to complete her degree in increments. This gave her not only the flexibility to travel as needed between the U.S. and her field assignment, but also the opportunity to analyze her own Mixtec language data in the classroom. Consequently, instead of working with theoretical language data, Rachael could use Mixtec, learning skills and solving problems that directly helped her translation work in Mexico and gathering advice from experienced GIAL faculty that she could put into practice.
One of the first courses Rachael took at GIAL was Second Language and Culture Acquisition (SLACA). Rachael shared, “I think SLACA was the most useful course in terms of preparing me for my initial field experience. And it was fun!” Later, during her M.A. courses, Rachael also took Old Testament Exegesis. She felt that the thought-provoking work in the classroom prepared her more than any other class for the day-to-day work of Bible translation. She said, “I use what I learned in my Bible translation concentration courses every day in checking translations and helping the team make good translation decisions.”
What lies ahead for Rachael? She and the mother-tongue translators still have a great deal of translation work left to accomplish before they can complete the entire Mixtec Old Testament. Please pray that the Lord will give her and her fellow servants there the wisdom and strength they need to do this good work. Even after that project is finished; however, she plans to press on and serve long-term as an Old Testament translation consultant for other similar projects in the region.