Posts Tagged ‘Tanzania’

One for the language lovers!

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Translation – and especially translating something as important as the Bible – is never straightforward, but you might be surprised by the words that have been challenging the Bena team in Tanzania. Researching how words are used in context is essential as Elizabeth, their translation advisor, illustrates…

tanzaniaGive me justice

One challenging section was the persistent widow story. The Bena have no word for ‘justice’. There was a loan word from the national language Swahili (‘ihaki’) in the text, which the Bena replaced as they know the reviewers won’t accept loan words. We tweaked this verse with the words in bold and came up with

‘…neke kangi pakuva umufwile uyu akufwahidza mbandu, lino ndikumutanga ukupata fye ivagila, ukuta atane ukundaasa mbepali!’

which roughly translates as ‘…but because this widow is really bothering me, now I will help her get as she deserves, so that she won’t bother me again!’ (Luke 18:5) This was the best we could do with ‘justice’.

Sabbath rest

The Bena word for Sabbath is ‘Nyuwabaaha’ which means a day of rest but could refer to any day of the week, not necessarily Saturday.

Heal me

There are currently two dialectal variations of the verb ‘to heal’ in the text – ‘kuhooswa’ and ‘kunaniya’ – but one word throughout which everyone understands would be the best.

Pray for the Bena team: the consultant will be checking the last section of Luke very soon.

Getting words like this right is incredibly important if a translation is going to communicate clearly and accurately, and be well used. If examples like this get you eager to support translation, find out more about how you could be involved.

Translating Jonah

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Many people think they know that the people who live in the far north of Alaska and Canada have a phenomenal number of words for ‘snow’. This is actually a myth, but the principal it’s based on – that people who deal with something a lot tend to have more, specific words for it – is true. In Bible translation, this problem comes up a lot!

Photo from the Gerth’s blog.

Ben and Jeannette Gerth work in Tanzania with the Jita people, who are translating the book of Jonah. The translators saw this problem: what’s the right word for ‘storm’?

Jonah 1:4‘The LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest.’ The Jita translators were struggling with the right Jita word to translate ‘tempest’. They knew that many Jita people are fishermen and would therefore have various terms for storms at sea. Therefore, they decided to ask the community. The testers said they use [rikubuji] for a crazy gust of wind and [echiiwure] for a fierce wind that lasts for a while. The translators decided to use [echiiwure].

The translation team faced the same problem with the plant that grew and died at the end of Jonah’s account. Read about that problem on the Gerth’s blog.

The translation of Jonah reminded Ben and Jeannette of how important Bible translation is for the Jita people:

Jonah 4:2 ‘I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful.’ The Jita translators have been struggling for a long time finding the right Jita word for ‘grace’. Grace is the unmerited favor of God toward man, an undeserved gift from God to man. That concept is not readily accessible in Jita culture (another reason why they need Scripture!). We asked the community testers and the testers suggested [obhwitiriranya] which seems to fit very well.

Read more from Ben and Jeannette on their blog. If these are the sorts of problems you’d love to spend your career thinking about, have you considered a role as a Bible translator? Find out more.

Celebrate what God has done

Monday, November 4th, 2013

A few weeks ago we asked you to pray for the launch of portions of Scripture in 5 African sign languages. The launch went ahead on 28th September with much rejoicing. 110 story sets were dedicated in Ugandan, Tanzanian, Ghanaian, Burundian and Ethiopian sign languages addressing three areas: Know God how? Follow God how? Serve God how?

The day after the launch Deaf translators led a ‘life-changing worship service’ using the translated Scripture. Praise God that Deaf communities in these countries now have the word of God in their heart language and pray that it will impact many lives. Read the original blog post ‘Seeing the Bible’.

It’s all too easy to forgot to praise God for the ways he has answered prayer and blessed us. Because we love to celebrate and we believe it is important to remember what God has done and to thank him for it, at our upcoming prayer event Frontline Prayer Live we have allocated a section of the day to look at what God has already done and how his word is impacting the lives of many. We will also take time during the day to pray for translation into sign languages around the globe. Please join us on Saturday 9th November to celebrate what God is doing – its not to late to register.

Register for Frontline Prayer Live or find out more by visiting the events section of our Facebook page.

How many?

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Mark and Richard are working in Tanzania with a group of languages. After they reported to local pastors on the progress of writing down two of the languages in preparation for Bible translation, the conversation soon turned to numbers:

‘How many Pimbwe [people] are there?’ asked one of the more senior leaders.

Richard answered that there are only about 20,000 Pimbwe according to our estimates, but that we still believe there is value in translating the Bible because of the impact that local language Scriptures can have in the life of the community, even if the language is only spoken in a few villages.

A church building in TanzaniaWe looked up, expecting the pastor to be sceptical, or to advise that our resources could be better used elsewhere. But no… instead he encouraged us.

‘I want to encourage you that this is a work from God,’ he said. ‘When Jesus healed the man with the evil spirits, he ended up sending them into a large herd of pigs who then charged off the hill and drowned. This herd of pigs was the project of the whole village, and they depended on the business the pigs generated. But Jesus cared more about the life of one person than he did about the business project of the entire village.’

He continued, ‘He probably should have been arrested right there, for destroying their business! But the point was that Jesus valued the life of this one man more than the wealth of the entire village. So I want to tell you not to become discouraged because there are few speakers, but rather be joyful that God cares even for a small group like the Pimbwe, and that this is a work of God!’

This report of encourgement comes from Mark Woodward’s blog.

Translating God’s word is a way of showing Jesus’s love to even the smallest communities. Nearly 2,000 language groups are still without a single verse of Scripture or a project started to translate it. Give God’s Story.

Why translate the Bible into Bende?

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Translating the Bible into a language in which there has never been Scripture before is not a short activity. A lot of work is needed even before translation begins. For the Bende translation project in Tanzania, that work is just getting underway. This report comes from the end of last year:

Two Tanzanians read a Bible together at a tableWe were excited to be able to host six speakers of the Bende language, as they took the very first step towards writing their language and later starting to translate the Bible into Bende. During the week that they spent with us they managed to collect nearly 2,000 words in their language, which will later be analysed linguistically to come up with a writing system that is intuitive and easy for Bende speakers to read and write.

There are many steps still to go, but these Bende speakers are looking to the impact of the final Bible translation, the first in Bende:

At the end of the workshop I asked the participants what benefit they personally would envisage from having the Bible available in their language. Here’s what they said:

The benefits would be many, not just one, because there are some things that are written in Swahili that the Bende are unable to read. Some words, for example ‘king’. When they say that Jesus is king, they don’t know that Jesus is their king; they often say that they don’t understand. Because of this, people say, ‘It is better for us to return to our traditional practices, because we don’t understand these things.’

But if we were to have the Bible written in Bende we would be very happy, and we would read it and understand it, even the old people. So our request, from our point of view, would be that this ministry would reach out to us Bende people, in order that it help us in our lives.

Bende is just one of around 2,000 languages where translation work has only just begun or still not started, and where having a Bible is not just a desire, but a necessity for them to grow in their knowledge and love of God. You can help more people get God’s word!

This account was first published on

Sold out!

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Many of us will be happily taking a rest, after battling our way through last-minute Christmas panics, hundreds of carol services and a substantial Christmas meal. And, as is traditional, many of us will choose to spend our well-earned rest fighting our way through the post-Christmas sales.

This account, from Tanzania, provides a bit of a contrast to sale shopping in the UK. (When was the last time you found Bibles sold out in your local bookshop?!)

Image used for illustarive purposes only. By Heather Pubols.This morning, I was told by one of my colleagues that he tried to get a copy of the book of Ruth in the Safwa language, but it was sold out. ‘Good news,’ I thought, ‘all 100 copies that were printed have already been sold out.’

I was so glad to hear that. We asked our colleagues, who usually print books for us, for more copies of Safwa Ruth. Slowly it became clear during our conversation, that they printed 400 more copies in October. So, in total, there were not only 100 copies sold, as I first thought, but almost 500! I knew that the Safwa people were waiting for God’s word in their language for several years and that they were excited about the first Biblical book in Safwa, Ruth, but not one of us expected so many copies to be sold in just over half a year! God is great!

This story is originally from, where you can find lots more inspiration about the work in Tanzania and Uganda.

Give the gift of God’s word.

The ‘boring’ objection

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

For some people, translating the Bible is not an exciting concept. People carry around all sorts of misconceptions about the Bible as something that they had to hear about in a dull Sunday school, full of irrelevant and boring stories. One translator in Tanzania went out to test the newly translated book of Ruth with some people who thought like this. Their response blew the ‘boring’ objection away:

An Ikoma woman with the newly published book of Luke.

After completing the initial draft of the book of Ruth, Mussa, one of the Ikoma translators, went out to a village to read it aloud to see what the community thought of it. He had called ahead and asked a man he knew who lived in that village to prepare a group of ten people to be ready to listen and provide feedback on the translation. But when he arrived, a significantly larger group, comprised of some Christians and some non-Christians, was waiting, curious and eager to take part!

After reading two chapters of Ruth, several of the non-Christians in the group spoke up. They said, ‘This is such a good story! We didn’t know the Bible had good stories in it!

Mussa answered that the Bible had many excellent stories in it, and that someday many of the stories will be translated into the Ikoma language, so they can read them all they like in their mother tongue. He had not planned on doing evangelism when he went out to the village to test the Ruth translation, but it seems a few small seeds of interest were planted that day.

Do you ever feel the ‘boring’ objection creeping up on you? Take a look at this brilliant video from Scripture Union or explore our A to Z of ways to get back into God’s fantastically exciting word.

Photo by Michael Nicholls. This account is from, which is all about Bible translation in Uganda and Tanzania.

Creating alphabets

Monday, September 24th, 2012

People will believe that God knows them if their language has Scripture in it… they will be very happy!‘ This was the opinion of Stephen, a speaker of the Bende language in Tanzania’s Katavi Region. But in order for parts of the Bible to be written in a language, there must first be an alphabet that is easy and intuitive for speakers of the language to read.

It was this task of creating suitable alphabets that brought Stephen and seven other speakers of the Bende and Pimbwe languages together for a three-week workshop that finished last Friday. Led by three of our colleagues who came alongside and guided them through the linguistic analysis, the participants painstakingly studied the sounds that make up the language they speak every day, in order to discover how they function together to make words.

Once the sounds had been analysed, the linguists were able to make recommendations to Stephen and the other Bende and Pimbwe speakers as to how their languages might best be written in ways that reflect the perceptions of the speakers, and hence are intuitive to read and write. Together they were then able to come up with tentative orthographies, or writing systems, that will now be tested and refined over the coming months.

The participants left the workshop with the provisional alphabet charts they had helped create, along with the satisfaction of knowing that they had achieved something that had never before been done in their language community. As Bende and Pimbwe speakers from western Tanzania, together with linguistic experts from around the world, they had created a writing system, and in the process taken one step closer to seeing the first books and Scripture portions produced in the languages of the Bende and Pimbwe peoples.

This blog post and the photos are by Mark Woodward, a Wycliffe worker based in Tanzania. Read more from him on his blog,

First taste

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Translating God’s word is not only an academic or linguistic exercise. As national translators are the first people to have God’s word in their mother tongue, they have the first glimpse of the impact the Scriptures will have among speakers of their language.

In this video from Wycliffe USA, Samuel shares how translating the Scriptures has transformed the way that he understands them. Samuel works with the Uganda-Tanzania branch of Wycliffe’s key partner, SIL.

For more stories from the work in Uganda and Tanzania, visit the branch website, Find out more about the need for the Bible to be translated into the mother-tongue languages of people everywhere.

Giving a goat for God’s word

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Many of the language communities are marginalised economically as well as spiritually: some might not have national recognition or access to an equal education. But that doesn’t stop the celebrations when God’s word comes:

We weren’t sure what to expect. The Kabwa language group [in Tanzania] is the smallest of the nine groups the Mara Cluster Project* is working on Bible translation with. And they are also one of the poorest. So, in planning for a Scripture dedication event, we were worried that they would struggle to accomplish the full Tanzanian-style celebration that they were hoping for.

At the very first planning meeting for the dedication event people quickly began pledging goats and cash with enthusiasm. The deep passion for their language was so visible on that day, you couldn’t miss it. It was apparent that, if any people group is going to embrace mother-tongue Scripture, Kabwa is likely going to be one of them.

Kabwa people gathered in the small village of Kirumi and dedicated some special green books, the Gospel of Luke in Kabwa. The entire day was full of joy, and it was a thrill to watch the small crowd of people at the beginning of the day grow to become enough to pack the little Anglican church.

Unfortunately, we were only able to bring a limited supply of Luke books on that day. A few minutes after the box was opened during the ceremony, flashes of green could be seen around the church building. The books were sold out within minutes!

You can read more about the Mara Cluster Project and Bible translation in Uganda and Tanzania at, the source of this account. Help start celebrations around the world by supporting the work of Bible translation. Give God’s Story.

*A cluster project is a Bible translation project that serves more than one language. The languages are generally geographically or linguistically related.