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Kathryn Seay
University Scholar in Linguistics
Franklin, Tennessee

A self-described "phonetics and phonology nut," alumna Kathryn Seay combined her love of linguistics and her passion for missions in Ghana during summer 2006. Kathryn earned her BA from the University Scholars program in 2003 and was studying at Baylor's George W. Truett Theological Seminary when she traveled to Ghana.

She initially chose Baylor's University Scholars program because, "I had grand ideas of being fluent in three languages by the time I graduated, grand, but na´ve," she says. She took courses in Greek, Russian, French, and religion. Then she came across a poster that said, "Would you like to learn every language there is?" Her answer, "Well, yes indeed."

That's how she came to take all the linguistics courses available. She realized "that I had found what I loved to do, but I also had felt a call to missions in high school, and I didn't know how linguistics would relate."

She has been finding out. In Ghana, Kathryn worked with Wycliffe Bible Translators, observing translators for almost two months. "In the morning I went out and did language and culture learning, just greeting people, which is a big thing in the culture I was in, observing and learning what they were doing," Kathryn says. In the afternoons, she observed translation work, an often grueling but gratifying task.

She watched as a team of native speakers translated the book of Matthew and the story of Joseph in Genesis. She says, "One day we got through an entire chapter of Matthew" in a matter of two or three hours. "Another day we got through just one verse."

"I like listening to how people talk and overhearing how to pronounce words," Kathryn says.

Now that Kathryn has earned her master of divinity with a global missions concentration, she plans to do translation work, most likely in sub-Saharan Africa. She says, "There are a lot of needs in Cameroon and Nigeria." Kathryn estimates there are 800-1000 languages in Africa still in need of translation.

As a translator, the final result of her labors will be both practical as well as spiritual: Through the work of dedicated foreign linguists and native speakers, "these people see that God can speak their language."

Kathryn says someone who enjoys languages, other cultures, and travel would be a good candidate for a major in linguistics. Plus, she adds that Baylor's small classes and the personal attention from professors sets Baylor apart.