Archive for the ‘Languages’ Category

How to make a little go a long way

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Chris and Marina are working in Senegal with the Manjak community. Their work is incredibly important for Bible translation, as this video from Wycliffe USA shows, but they aren’t Bible translators – that work is done by Manjak people. So what do Chris and Marina contribute?

Chris and Marina are literacy specialists, working with Wycliffe’s linguistic partners SIL International. Watch the video to see how their work helps a little Scripture go a long way:

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The Power of Bible Translation and Literacy from Wycliffe USA on Vimeo.

‘It wasn’t as if I wanted to translate the Bible into Manjak. It was that I needed to translate the Bible into Manjak. God’s word is something of greatness, and it’s for all the Manjak people. If the word of God was translated and nobody was able to read, that would make me very, very sad.’ Pierre Nassadiou, Manjak Bible translator

Working with local communities to develop literacy programmes allows many people to access God’s word for themselves for the first time. It also opens up doors to education, health information and legal rights in communities that have been denied these in the past.

If it’s something you feel passionate about, find out more about literacy roles in Wycliffe and the literacy work SIL does.

Do you translate the Old Testament too?

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

A lot of translations start off with the shorter projects. They translate Jonah or Luke, maybe combining the translation of Luke with an audio recording and dubbing the JESUS Film into their language. ‘Shorter projects’, yes, but they still take four or five years.

Photo: Tim Scott at

It’s why it’s not surprising that it’s a big step for a translation team to move on to a New Testament. New technology and ways of working can often speed up a New Testament translation, but it’s still not unusual to hear of New Testaments taking 20+ years! You can understand why, given the size of the undertaking, we don’t hear as much about Old Testaments.

Max and Johnny, Papua New Guineans who speak Wuvulu, attended a five-week course to prepare them to translate the Old Testament. Why?

Max Benjamin helped translate the Wuvulu New Testament for his people… He hoped that he could one day also help translate the Old Testament. When his co-translator, James Hafford, sent him a text message to asking if he would like to attend an upcoming course on the Old Testament, Max didn’t hesitate, “Yes! This is what I’ve been dreaming of!”

When Max travelled to the course at the Ukarumpa Training Center, he brought along another Wuvulu man, Johnny Namor, who also wants to help translate the Old Testament for his people. Johnny explained, “When a passage in the New Testament refers back to the Old Testament, sometimes the meaning isn’t clear. We need to know the background so we can better understand the teachings in the New Testament.” Read the full story here.

As mother-tongue English speakers, we are blessed to have the whole Bible. We’ve had it for 400 years. We have hundreds of versions. But many people don’t know about God’s creation, miracles, merciful character and promises, because they don’t have the Bible – any of it – in the language they know best. Do something to help.

You search the Scriptures…

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Bible Gateway, the ubiquitous Bible website, has released statistics about which countries have been searching for which Bible passages. It turns out that the whole world isn’t searching for John 3:16. In fact, some countries search a lot for chapters that we might sometimes forget.

Ed Lauber, who works in Ghana, looked at the research from a Bible translation angle:

A snippet of Bible Gateway's infographic.

A snippet of Bible Gateway’s infographic

[The research] shows that people from different countries had very marked differences in the attention they gave to different verses and books of the Bible…

While the relevance of the Bible is universal, the perceived relevance of different parts of the Bible varies according to one’s culture. World-renowned historian of Christianity, Professor Andrew Walls, notes that for most Western Christians some parts of the Bible might as well not exist. When was the last time you read Numbers? On the other hand, when the Bible was translated into some languages, the people found the genealogies to be significant, while another group was brought to faith by Acts 17:26-27 when it was first translated into their language.

… Many peoples without the Bible in their language also live in places where they suffer severe economic, political and social oppression. Parts of the Old Testament speak directly to that. We should not be surprised or condemning when they read, study and get comfort from those parts more than an affluent American. During the civil rights movement in the United States, many African-Americans drew solace and strength from the parts of the Old Testament that address social and economic oppression. In fact, during the reformation, many Europeans developed their stance against the monarchy, for religious freedom and for the rule of the people from the Old Testament recently translated into their languages. More of this blog.

The Bible gives comfort for those who are refugees, far from home and feeling lost, because many people of the Bible had that experience. It gives hope to those facing famine, because famine isn’t foreign to the Bible. It can strengthen those in prison as they read about Bible-writers themselves imprisoned.

But not if they don’t have it.

Help get the Bible translated for those who haven’t got it in their language.

Why learn to read Manjak?

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

In Senegal and much of the west of Africa, the official language is French. French is what you learn at school, the language of official documents and what the news on the main TV stations is read in. So if everyone wants to speak French, why worry about teaching Manjak speakers to read their own language?

This was the question that a lot of Manjak speakers had when linguistic specialists started helping to plan literacy work among the adults and mother-tongue lessons at school for the children. In the video below from Wycliffe USA, some of those who’ve been part of the literacy programme, including UK Wycliffe members Chris and Marina Darby, speak about why learning Manjak is worth it:

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Marina says she keeps speaking to people who, explaining why they want to learn to read Manjak, say, ‘It’s our language!’ and that one woman explained that it’s like seeing by her own lamp now.Literacy helps members of minority language communities embrace and use their language, learn other languages more easily and have access to a wealth more information. It’s a crucial part of the Bible translation ministry. Find out what you could do to be involved.

Hands on in Paraguay

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Wycliffe partner LETRA Paraguay don’t mind getting stuck in. Among the communities they serve are the Ache: alongside literacy and Bible translation, they encourage other South Americans to serve the community in practical ways. Two groups have recently returned from doing just that:

bible lesson - cerro moroti February is a full and busy month for LETRA Paraguay, a time when groups of volunteers visit  different Ache communities. This year a team of Chileans visited the village of Cerro Morotï for 3 weeks and another group from Uruguay visited Arroyo Bandera for one.

The Chilean team was made up of 10 young people, between 18 and 26, all from the same church. The Uruguayan group included 15 volunteers and 2 paid drivers, aged between 18 and 64, and from 13 different churches.

medicalDespite these differences, the two groups engaged in similar work. The Uruguayan team built a dining room and kitchen for the school in Arroyo Bandera, while in Cerro Morotï the Chilean volunteers extended the church building. Both groups also did lots of work with children, with Bible lessons, games, snacks and songs in abundance, as well as a day of hair washing, cutting and brushing for all the children. There were also daily Bible studies for the women.

The Ache people received these visits enthusiastically. In Cerro Morotï, 5 Ache men worked on the church extension, while in Arroyo Bandera, 7–10 men came to help with the construction of the kitchen/dining room.

LETRA Paraguay was blessed by the work of both groups, and took advantage of this time in the communities to begin Chäbeta (the Ache word for glasses), a new initiative involving the production and distribution of reading glasses to help the Ache people read the translation of the New Testament, as well as other books.

This report was written by Rocio Gomez, and translated by Ruth Gaved, a UK student in the middle of a Spanish and linguistics degree, who is serving with LETRA for part of her year abroad.

Letra team

Ruth (right) with new team member Megan and LETRA directors Cristina and Victor Gómez

If you, like Ruth, want to use your skills to serve Bibleless people – whether they are in language, IT, writing, teaching or anything else -  the Two Week Stint is the event for you to find out how. It’s two weeks in the South of France immersed in finding out how your skills could fit in mission. Find out more about why it’s the event for you.

Find out more about LETRA on their Facebook page (it’s in Spanish).

Words for Life: out now

Monday, March 17th, 2014

The latest Words for Life, Wycliffe’s UK magazine, is out now. It’s hitting doormats, landing on tables at the back of churches and flying into cyberspace onto our website. We’ve packed it full of stories about how God’s word is changing lives as it is translated into people’s own languages. For example…

WFLThis was the reaction when partners from another organisation helped to ‘field test’ a draft translation of Luke into an African language: ‘This is the first time I’ve ever read anything in my language. My heart is on fire. I love this!’

Another man (not a Christian) was asked to read another portion and then to explain what the text said. He did so, summarising with, ‘And the boy was healed in front of everyone,’ and adding, ‘Jesus has all the power.’

What an impact God’s word has! And these quotes come from just one of the little snippet stories – there’s so much more to inspire you in the rest of the magazine. Flick through it on the website or download it here.

It’s also packed full of prayer information. To receive the prayer items as a weekly bulletin, sign up to Seven Days of Prayer here.

Their website, God’s word

Friday, March 7th, 2014

There is a digital revolution engulfing the world. With a global population of around 7.1 billion people, there are more than 6.8 billion mobile phone contracts in the world. Globally there are over 2.8 billion internet users and over half of them are in the developing world.

man on phone under treeOur partner, Internet Publishing Services are taking advantage of this revolution by helping to build and host minority-language Scripture websites. They equip language community members to create websites that fit their language and culture presenting Scripture text, recordings, stories, videos, songs, drama all in their own language with all website navigation in their language as well.

A recent update from a colleague working in this area is encouraging:

Praise God that I now seem to receive an email every couple of weeks from a colleague announcing the launch of a website for another language community. Published sites number over 130, with hundreds planned or in preparation. In the last few weeks, workshops in Tanzania and the Philippines trained a number of language workers, who will each use their skills to put together one or more websites.’

Please pray for people creating these websites that they would have the time, creativity and help that they need to publish their Scripture and other language materials in accessible and attractive ways. Pray also that each website would be read, listened to and watched by many people from the language community concerned and that this would lead to changed hearts and lives.

See our partner TWR’s video on the impact of using different sorts of media to share the gospel.

BBQ ribs and the JESUS Film

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

We always get excited when new ways of sharing the Bible in minority languages become available. Mobile phone app – wonderful! Videos – brilliant! A new New Testament – fantastic! But if you are based in the ‘West’, you might be thinking, ‘What use are these to me?’ One of the workers at JESUS Film got a chance to try out one when he stopped at a fast food place too early:

‘I wasn’t the only one drawn in by the tempting smell of slow smoked meat. Stanley, pictured by my side, was also there for a 10:30 a.m. rib fix.

‘The vendor gave us each a sample. As we waited and talked about how good it was, I noticed Stanley’s accent and asked where he was originally from. “Ivory Coast,” he said.

‘… Before I knew it, I was wiping the grease off my fingers so I could zoom in on his country on my smartphone to see if his mother tongue language had been recorded on the JESUS Film. Sure enough, there it was! “Bete!… That’s my language!” Stanley exclaimed. I selected it and it started to play. Holding my phone close to his ear he heard the narrator introducing the JESUS Film in Bete language of Ivory Coast. “This is unbelievable!” he shouted through a heartfelt laugh. “How can I get this for myself?”

‘I clicked the “share” option and got Stanley’s email address and, poof, just like that, he and his family have the JESUS film in their language. As it turns out, his mother-in-law will be arriving from Ivory Coast soon and doesn’t speak English. He plans to impress her by showing her the JESUS film in Bete when she arrives!

‘… As I drove away, I thought, “Wow, anyone could do that.” And that’s the whole point.’ Read more of this story.

You never know when you’ll get an opportunity to amaze someone by showing them that God speaks their language. Find out more about the JESUS Film app on their website. There are lots more resources for minority language speakers right here on our website – have a look around.

Photo from JESUS Film Media.

What alphabet do you use?

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

There are at least 130 scripts currently in use. That doesn’t include the 84 historical scripts the database ScriptSource list or the two fictional scripts they’ve included. So when starting a Bible translation in a language that has never been written down, how do you whittle down those 130 choices (we won’t count the fictional ones) to just one?

Ed Lauber, who works with a local Bible translation organisation in Ghana, explains:

So, which script do we use? That depends. Usually it depends on the more prestigious languages found in the same place. People speaking a minority language in Thailand, for example, will usually want their language written in Thai Script. For one thing, that makes it easier from them to learn and read the official language – Thai.

John 1:1 in Thai
ในปฐมกาลพระวาทะทรงดำรงอยู่และพระวาทะทรงอยู่กับพระเจ้า และพระวาทะทรงเป็นพระเจ้า

Dayle and I have worked in former British and French colonies in Africa where the official language is English or French. So languages in those countries are written with a script that is like English or French. But the languages have sounds not found in English or French, so some letters are added. [Right] is a typical example from the Nafaanra languages of Ghana. The text is from Isaiah chapter 1.

The people who speak the language and the relevant local authorities make the decision about how to write it. It is their language after all. What is easiest and seems best to them is more important than what a missionary may think, want or find easiest. If these scripts look impossible to you, remember that for the people who use them from their childhood they look easy and natural and our alphabet looks complex and strange…

Occasionally the choice of a script can be controversial. I have seen cases where the same language is written with two different scripts. Some write it with one and some with the other. In such cases, many people learn to read both. Read his whole blog post here.

Find out more about scripts at Read more answers to frequently asked questions – including ‘Are sign languages really languages?’ and ‘Why don’t you use Google Translate?’ – on our blog.

Five reasons to translate the Bible into Sign Languages

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Bright Little works for a development organisation for sign language in Asia and the Pacific. She is Deaf (both non-hearing and in her culture). She’s been a Christian for 29 years, but she doesn’t have access to the Bible in her language – not a testament or even a whole book.

From Mission Frontiers website

She wasn’t immediately convinced about the need for sign language Bible translation, but having worked with translators and talked with other Deaf people in hearing churches, she’s now outlines 5 reasons why the Deaf need sign language translations:

1. Sign languages are different the world over.

‘Sign language is not universal. For example, the sign “father” in American Sign Language may be understood as “chicken” in Korean Sign Language or “very-big” in Myanmar Sign Language. “Woman” in Japanese Sign Language has the same handshape as “bad” in Malaysian Sign Language.’

2. The Bible is for everyone, not just the hearing.

‘When the Deaf have their own Bible in their heart language, they can “read” (watch) it daily by themselves and understand it… When given responsibility to lead a prayer, Mary (pseudonym), another Deaf member, would express, “Not me. Not me. I don’t know how to pray. I don’t understand these words of prayer.”’

3. It will open up outreach opportunities.

‘A friend, Matthew (pseudonym), questioned his own ability to share the gospel, “I am not sure if I can share the Good News with Deaf lost souls. I don’t know how to read Bible verses. How can I explain it to others?” Mark (pseudonym), has also expressed, “I have a hard time understanding Bible verses in English. Even if I give these printed tracts to other Deaf, they won’t read these tracts.”’

4. Translation will show that sign languages are real languages.

‘Like other Deaf, I used to think sign language was broken English because I thought sign language we used daily was based on English, but did not follow English structure and grammar…I learned that sign language is a true language with its distinct linguistic system. It has the same kind of expressive power as a spoken language.’

5. Sign languages translations could empower the Deaf.

‘In some countries, there is a substantial number of Deaf who have never gone to school. In general, few Deaf make it to tertiary education… However, a sign language Bible translation project team is formed of Deaf translators, Deaf videographers, Deaf video editors, Deaf artists, Deaf annotators, Deaf translation consultants, and so forth.’

The Bible is the Story everybody needs – hearing and Deaf, young and old, in every country. Support our vision to see Bible translation started wherever it’s needed.