Faulty Files and Silver Linings

By Tom Castor | January 23, 2019 |

For a number of months, Clear ans Simple Media  has been working with church leaders in Burkina Faso to translate “the little book” (Simple Truths) in both the Cerma and Bwaba languages. Thanks to the help of national leaders there, both translations were completed in June of 2018. Field testing began soon after, and we had hoped to have 1,000 books in each language printed by mid-December.

That did not happen.

Our practice has been to print our books, whenever possible, in the country or region where they will be used. We do this for a number of reasons. It allows a local printer to benefit. People take notice (especially in a country like Burkina Faso) when material originates in country. And it allows our partners there to learn and understand the process of bringing a book to print.

That practice has worked well for us. But it does involve some risk.

In mid-December, when our friend Nebié Badiou took the field-testing and edited files to the printer, we expected pre-press proofs within a few days. A pre-press proof is a sample of the full layout of the book that allows the customer to take one final look at the text prior to the book going to press.

When he got the proofs, the Bwaba proof was fine. The Cerma proof ? Not so much.

Cerma is spoken in Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire. Cerma speaker use some vowel sounds not found in English or French. The written form of the language makes use of diacritic marks. A diacritic is a mark that may appear above, below, on, or through a letter that changes the way that letter is pronounced and changes the meaning of a word from its unmarked form. When the electronic file we gave the printer was transferred to the kind of file that the printing press could read, all of the diacritic marks were either changed or went missing. To the printer, who does not read Cerma, the changes went undetected. But when our translator examined the proof sheet (a practice we insist on), he refused to allow it to go to press.

Although that was a disappointing development, there was a silver lining in that cloud. First, we detected the problem before books went to press. Second, it demonstrated once again that we are working with quality people who care as much about these projects as we do. Third, it proved that our quality assurance protocols, though tedious, actually work.

Thankfully, the printer was able to find a solution and the Bwaba and Cerma translations of Simple Truths will be ready for distribution before the end of January. For that, we are truly thankful.


Simple Truths is a small (144 Questions), evangelical catechism. The book was first developed for the church in Vietnam. Today, the book has been translated and printed in over 40 languages and is being used to disciple new believers and train church workers in 30+ countries.

Tom Castor

Thomas Castor, founder of Clear and Simple Media Group, is a seasoned writer and communicator who has been delivering content with clarity and simplicity for 30 years.