Archive for February, 2012

Translation at home

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 by Hannah

Where do we do Bible translation? We often talk of work ‘around the world’, and it’s sometimes presumed to mean the places of greatest need — like central Africa, India and Papua New Guinea. But work there sits alongside the work going on in our (figurative) back garden. There’s a whole lot more going on close to home than you might think.

Many sign languages have definite needs of translation, because for many Deaf people, the majority language of their home country is not their mother-tongue, whether it’s spoken or written. Here in the UK, the British Sign Language Bible project is still relatively new. In the Netherlands, Wycliffe has been working with the Dutch Sign Language Bible project since 2008. The team of six have attending some Wycliffe translation workshops and Wycliffe Netherlands have been supporting them with administration.

A Plautdietsch-speaking couple

There are also projects like the Plautdietsch, a language spoken by as many as 90,000 people in Germany and 80,000 in Canada. The complete Bible in Plautdietsch was only completed in 2003.

New translation work is going on among Roma (Gypsy) languages in many parts of Europe. There are estimated to be as many as 35 million Roma people in different parts of the world; three different Gypsy languages already have translations of the New Testament, and in twelve others have Bible portions.

The needs are far more reaching than just these few: 350 million people can’t access any part of the Bible in the language they understand best. Be part of Wycliffe’s vision to see a Bible translation begun for all these people by 2025.

Picture this: graphic translation statistics

Saturday, February 25th, 2012 by Hannah

Wycliffe Bible Translators work so that every one of the 7 billion people in the world will be able to access the Bible in whichever of the 6,000+ languages it is they understand best. At present, more than 2,000 languages, spoken by 350 million people, don’t have a single of the 31,000+ verses in the Bible.

If you’re anything like me, big numbers like these sound impressive but have very little actual meaning. I can neither picture 7,000,000,000 people nor imagine 6,000 languages. I’d only get an understanding of 31,000 verses by flicking through a Bible.

Visuals can help. Wycliffe Global Alliance has published a series of statistics graphics, like the one above, to help make big numbers easier to understand. Head over to to see more.

When they put it like this, it’s clear that those numbers are too big. You can do something about it, by getting involved with Bible translation by praying, giving, going or telling others.

Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg (July 10, 1682 – February 23, 1719)

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012 by Hannah

Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg was a German missionary and Bible translator. He was the first Protestant missionary to go to India, and translator of the first New Testament of any Indian language.

He was sent to mission work at the request of the King of Denmark, to the Danish colony of Trankebar — now Tharangambadi, Tamil Nadu — in south India. He travelled with another mission worker, Heinrich Pluetshau. Their desire was to see people come to Jesus and establish their own, indigenous Indian church. They therefore did not plant churches, but instead, prioritised learning the Tamil language and writing about Jesus in Tamil.

Ziegenbalg and Pluetshau were not welcomed as enthusiastically as they had been sent. There was opposition from both the local Hindus and from Danish officials: at one time, Ziegenbalg was even imprisoned for four months, because officials thought that new converts from his ministry would spark new rebellion.

The first page of the 1714 Tamil New Testament

Ziegenbalg began translating the New Testament into Tamil in 1708. It was finished in 1711, but its publication was slowed by Ziegenbalg’s own frequent revisions to the work and printing press delays. He had ordered a printing press from Denmark in good time, less than a year after he began translating. But when it arrived three years later, the specially-made blocks for the Tamil letters were too big; new blocks had to be made locally, out of cheese tins.

It was published in 1714; his translation of the Old Testament was never finished. Ziegenbalg died on this day in 1719, aged 36.

Even though Ziegenbalg’s work is now nearly 300 years old, Bible translation remains a big need in India today. The country is home to 438 languages, of which more than 150 have no Scripture and a definite need. You can be involved, as God uses Bible translation to proclaim his Story in India and around the world.

Love your language: International Mother Language Day

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 by Hannah

Today – February 21st – is Unesco’s International Mother Language Day. It’s a day to celebrate the linguistic diversity and richness of the nearly-7,000 languages spoken around the world.

The Martyrs Memorial at Dhaka University, commorating the 1952 protests.

The day has been celebrated since a UN resolution in 1999, but the history goes back much further. In 1949, Urdu was declared the national language in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan). Bangla (Bengali) speakers, eager to maintain their own linguistic identity, protested. Mother Language Day’s date comes from the crisis point reached on February 21st 1952, when students involved in a protest were killed by police. Their deaths are remembered in Bangladesh on this day every year.

Bengali is now one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. But many languages communities, whose languages are not used as widely, still suffer discrimination and oppression. International Mother Language Day calls for respect for all languages:

‘Mother languages, along with linguistic diversity, matter for the identity of individuals. As sources of creativity and vehicles for cultural expression, they are also important for the health of societies…. Mother language instruction is a powerful way to fight discrimination.’ Unesco Director-General speaking last year.

Photo from Unesco

This year’s theme for the day is mother-tongue education.  Most people can’t learn to read and write in a language they don’t know; not providing education first in the mother-tongue before in secondary languages prohibits many people – usually those speaking minority languages – from advancing in literacy and other education.

People’s heart languages are central to culture, community, education and identity. All Wycliffe’s work seeks to promote the use and love of people’s own language, whether through Bible translation, literacy work, mother-tongue education programmes or encouraging use of the Scriptures in the mother-tongue.

We want to celebrate mother languages in practical ways. Find out how you could join Wycliffe in supporting minority languages around the world.

What’s the point (of translation)?

Sunday, February 19th, 2012 by Hannah

“English is the most dominant global language ever. So why are we at Desiring God doing so much work to translate our resources into other tongues? Why not just spend the same amount of time, money, and effort teaching people to read our English resources rather than doing the hard (and sometimes messy) work of translation?”

So starts Tyler Kenney’s recent post on the Desiring God blog. It is an important question, and especially important for Wycliffe as an organisation which prioritises translation into the minority languages of the world.

Translation is embedded in Christian history. From the very start, as the apostles wrote of Jesus’ ministry, they translated his words into Greek as they wrote, and those words have been shared since then in translations. In fact, translation is even more fundamental – as Kenney points out, “Jesus’ incarnation was an act of translation, and translation work is the means by which he will be incarnated into every language and culture.”

If you have wondered about why translating the Bible for people speaking all languages is important, we hope that these resources, as well as Kenney’s article, will help you to be encouraged by the great work of translation that God has done (through his son Jesus) and does (as his word becomes accessible to people around the world).

Convinced that translation is worth it? Partner in sharing God’s story.

A nice problem

Friday, February 17th, 2012 by Hannah

Up in the beautiful mountain region of Atakora in northwest Bénin, the latest translations of the Jesus the Messiah picture book were eagerly received by the Sola and the Lokpa people. Pastors and Sunday school teachers were trained to use the book to teach their people the stories of Jesus.

Reactions have been very encouraging. One boy completely changed his behaviour when he saw that Jesus meant business about loving one another. A mother is using the lessons of Jesus to teach her children obedience. A Bible school trainer is using one of the book’s themes, the names of Jesus, to teach his students about Christ’s character. Sunday school teachers tell stories with accuracy. A little boy recounted word-for-word the story of the paralytic who was brought to Jesus. Village leaders are using the teaching to help them settle disputes. Seeing Jesus’ love for children, pastors have a new heart for the kids in their communities.

The village of Anadana saw all these changes and more. About 20 adults and children from the nearby village of Kakoupre walked the 10 km to Anadana to see the picture book for themselves. They liked it so much they kept coming back and brought others with them, up to 40 people. An evangelism campaign was done in Kakoupre and over a hundred came to faith.

The people asked Pastor Benjamin to help them start a church in their village so they wouldn’t have to walk so far. So now this shepherd divides his time between two flocks.

The New Testament in Sola is to be dedicated in June of this year. Chances are Pastor Benjamin will need even greater reinforcements when that happens.

*Story from Lois Thar. This story is also featured today in Call to Prayer, Wycliffe’s bimonthly prayer diary.

Deep in the heart of the jungle

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by Hannah

Such is the proliferation of the internet that we sometimes find it surprising to think that there are still some parts of the world that remain remote and near-inaccessible. One such place is a village of the Yama people of Southeast Asia. Bob Creson, Director of Wycliffe USA, took a journey from Texas to get there: four days, eight plane flights, a truck journey up a muddy mountainside, and occasional hiking, as the road becomes impassable.

The Yama people had traditionally practiced their faith in the national language, but over the past 20 years, the New Testament has been translated into Yama. Why has it taken this long? The work was done mainly by Andowa, the Yama translator, and advisor Linda. The problem: Linda lives in Texas, on the other side of the world.

Recently, as Bob saw, the way Andowa and Linda have done translation has changed dramatically:

In this very remote village, where there is neither electricity nor phone service, translator Andowa sits at a laptop computer. A dozen people cluster closely around him, listening as he reads aloud a Bible passage in Yawa. The volunteer reviewers enthusiastically discuss it, looking for ways to improve awkward or unclear sentences. When they‘re satisfied with the way it sounds, Andowa revises it on his computer. Then, since his specially-designed software has a send/receive function, he logs onto the internet and “syncs” his draft.

Halfway around the world in Arlington, Texas, Wycliffe translation advisor Linda Jones will get up tomorrow morning, sync up her computer, and read the draft that Andowa has revised.

Since Bob’s visit, Andowa and Linda have completed the New Testament in Yama: it was dedicated last year. The same satellite technology helps translation teams in remote locations around the world to progress with the translation of the Scriptures.

Wycliffe and partners are working together to see the Bible translated into languages of all peoples. Find out how you could be involved.

Story from Photo by Linda Jones.

Really smart phones

Saturday, February 11th, 2012 by Hannah

The Djambarrpuyngu New Testament was launched in 2008, after thirty years of work. The language is spoken on Elcho Island, just off the north coast of Australia, by around 700 people. But the translation of the New Testament into new forms continues…

Waangar was one of the mother-tongue speakers who was involved with the New Testament translation. But after the translation was dedicated, she didn’t just take it easy. She wanted more people to hear the Bible in her language. So she taught herself how to record audio programmes: she got the recordings broadcasted by the local radio station, the first ever radio programmes in the Djambarrpuyngu language.

Children wave flags as part of the Djambarrpuyngu dedication

But she saw more opportunities. People around her shared music files on their mobile phones, she noticed. Soon, she was sharing Scripture recordings with people, phone to phone.

Some people train to do roles like Waangar’s in Bible translation, specialising in sharing the Bible so that people can interact with it in new ways. Waangar met one of these specialists, and together they edited the Luke film, already dubbed into the Djambarrpuyngu language, and created a shorter, Christmas video, available for people to watch on their phones.

They made more films. Waangar produced one about Jesus calming the storm. She thought it was particularly pertinent for people experiencing turbulence in their lives. She saw first-hand the impact of this video when her neighbour described the enjoyment of it in their household: there was much debate among the children about who would get the phone as they loved watching the videos before bed, and had soon memorised it word-for-word. The neighbour told her make more films.

The whole language project committee is now committed to sharing the New Testament with the community using new media, like phones. Waangar is one of many around the world passionate to share God’s story with her people in the language they understand best.

Give the Story by helping people to interact with Scripture in new ways.

This story also appeared in Call to Prayer, the prayer diary of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Thank God with us for this tremendous spread of his word.

‘The Son of God’: Wycliffe responds to accusations

Thursday, February 9th, 2012 by Hannah

Over the last few weeks a good deal of information has been circulating on the Internet regarding the translation of the Biblical term rendered in English as “the Son of God” in certain religious contexts. While much of what has been said is inaccurate and misleading, it is encouraging to see the extent to which Christians in Britain are concerned about the accuracy of Scripture translation.

This is part of a press release published on the Wycliffe Bible Translators website. Read the whole release and download pictures from the website.

Which word is right?

Thursday, February 9th, 2012 by Hannah

Translating the Bible is never a simple process. You can’t just open a dictionary and substitute one word for another. Different languages have differing structures, vocabulary and nuances. Take this example:

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, NIV).

How should Galatians 6:2 be translated in the Konni language of Ghana? The text says, “Carry each other’s burdens….” In the Konni language, there are five different words for ‘carry’: ‘mili,’ carry on the back; ‘dogi,’ carry on the hip; ‘vigi,’ carry on the shoulder; ‘pogili,’ carry in front of you; and ‘chii,’ carry on the head.

"Chii" - to carry on the head

To best answer the question, a translator must dig deeper and ask, “What do Konni people carry on these different places?” ‘On the back’ is always a baby; ‘on the hip’ is always a small child; ‘on the shoulder’ is usually a piece of firewood or a hoe; and ‘in front of you’ is something light. ‘Chii’ is the right word to use because they carry their heaviest burdens on their heads.

Translators and consultants on translations constantly work hard to find the right words for the job. A lot of work, though, becomes worth it when people open up God’s word to hear his Story in their own language for the very first time. Find out more about what you could do to get involved.

This example is from Wycliffe USA’s prayer blog. Find it here: