Posts Tagged ‘Tanzania’

Where faith comes by hearing: making audio Scriptures in Tanzania

Monday, January 25th, 2016 by Nick

The majority of people in the world belong to oral cultures. For them, faith literally comes by hearing. With this in mind, one of the tools we use to share Scripture with these communities is audio recordings of Bible stories! So how does Scripture go from words on paper to audio?

Jo Clifford shares a great step-by-step account of one of the many trips she takes to record Scripture, this time to Mpanda in Tanzania. From invitation to hanging blankets over wooden frames, this is a brilliant window into the world of Scripture audio recording:

‘I regularly receive requests from various language projects to do audio recordings of Scripture. A couple of months before a trip I need to prepare the script of the audio recording – taking the Scripture text and dividing it up into the different characters (narrator, Ruth, Boaz, Jonah etc). Then copies of the parts are given to the different people who have agreed to read for us, so they have time to practice. I discuss with those hosting the recording work what location might be best. The preference is for somewhere quiet, with power if possible (otherwise a generator is necessary to run the equipment). I also ask if there are blankets available for soundproofing the studio structure as well as some wood to make the frame. I bring the rest of my recording equipment.

When I am recording I rely on others to help me. I explain the recording process to the person who has come to read the part. Before we start recording I always get people’s consent to use their voice.

JoC recording3

Jo at work

I usually ask for at least one translator of the language being recorded to be present to follow the reading and make sure words are read correctly. I have the text so I can generally follow along, but I don’t know the languages and some languages incorporate tone to express meaning.

Before a reader begins, I often paint a picture of the context to help them think about what they are reading. To get the most realistic recording, I often ask if there is special way of saying something in their culture which signals for instance an attitude of prayer or of showing fear or celebration.

At the time of recording I will do a rough edit of each clip. The same evening I will go through all that has been recorded that day and edit each clip, taking out breaths, clicks from lips smacking together and any extra space between phrases and sentences.

JoC recording2

Editing audio recordings

[Then] I will start to put all the clips together to make each chapter and will add the sound effects.  I will play it to the translators who speak the language to check all the text is correct, that they like the sound effects and that I haven’t edited something out by mistake!

When the translators are happy with the audio, then I can produce the MP3 tracks which can be made into CDs, or be put onto a mobile phone, uploaded onto the language website and put onto the language Scripture app.’

Interested in finding out more about the work of Wycliffe and how you can be involved? Come along to one of our one day events First Steps!

Access, engage, understand, be changed.

Friday, September 18th, 2015 by Jo Johnson

It’s great for people to have God’s word in their heart language. However, sometimes that’s not enough. Those who’ve never had access to God’s word before often need help to know how to use it. This is where Scripture engagement specialists come in.

Katherine, a Scripture engagement specialist working in Tanzania, explains why her role is so important:

‘In parts of Tanzania you can find a church on every corner – while there is much faith, there can be, at times, little knowledge of God’s word and many people who go to church do not img73have a Bible. Helping people to access God’s word and then to engage with it, understand it and be changed by it is therefore vital.

In my Scripture engagement work I am often involved in training Sunday school teachers and find that many do not know the Bible well themselves, some don’t have a Bible, and a large number struggle to find the main teaching point of a story or think how to apply it to the lives of children.

Sometimes I visit Bible colleges with my colleagues to encourage the students to consider using their local languages more in churches. We often challenge these trainee pastors by asking if they understand what ‘phylacteries’ are, but they have no idea as the word used in the Swahili Bible makes people think it is referring to a magic charm. This highlights again the need for deep engagement with Scripture in a language that is clear and meaningful.’

  • Please pray that God will give many a passion to see translated Scriptures transform hearts and lives.
  • Ask God to prepare both Tanzanian and expatriate workers to come alongside the local church, helping them to grow in Christ through the use of mother-tongue Scriptures.
  • Pray that God provides workers for these specific vacancies around the world.

Pray for Scripture engagement activities around the world using our prayer resource ‘Encountering God’s word’.

Not too remote

Friday, January 16th, 2015 by Jo Johnson

A recent letter from a colleague in Tanzania reads, ‘Pray we would be able to secure funding to start the translation of the Kisi, Manda and Pangwa New Testaments.’  Wondering what had provoked this request, I decided to investigate.

Pangwa Team membersI discovered that whilst translation work has been happening in Mbeya in several related languages since 2003 using a cluster approach* Kisi and Pangwa have not been developed nor had any Scripture published. Manda did have a translation published in 1937 but it is no longer available or adequate for the needs of the community, since the language has changed so much since then.

The need for translation in Kisi, Manda and Pangwa has been clear since sociolinguistic surveys were done in 2002, but the communities are remote and too far from Mbeya where workshops for ten other languages were being held. It simply wasn’t possible for the Kisi, Manda and Pangwa languages to be part of that cluster project.

The good news is that from 2012 workshops have been held for these 3 languages to help them develop a writing system. The district capital, Ludewa, was used as the hub for these workshops. This has worked to an extent, but the Manda, and particularly the Kisi, find travel to Ludewa a challenge, as there are no direct roads from the lake shore up the steep escarpment to Ludewa town. While some Kisi and Manda have made the 8-hour walk up the mountains for workshops, it has become clear that Ludewa is not a viable centre for a language development project involving the Kisi and Manda.

The work that has been done is appreciated by the Kisi. Language development has demonstrated to them that their community and language are valued by the outside world:

‘We don’t have any roads or phone network, and the only motor vehicles we have are boats, but to see these Kisi calendars makes us so happy that our language is being developed!’

However without committed funding, personnel with translation expertise, and creative solutions to the geographical issues faced by these projects, they cannot move forward and start translation.

Please pray:

  • That funding applications will be successful and that God will provide all the necessary finances needed to start translation in these 3 languages.
  • For planning meetings in February that God will give wisdom and guidance in planning for translation to start in these projects
  • For the right personnel to become available to serve the communities as translation advisors and consultants

Find out in this 3 minute video the Big Things God is doing in Bible translation in Tanzania.

*A language cluster refers to languages that may be linguistically related, and/or from similar geographic regions or cultural backgrounds. Speakers of these languages work together, sharing expertise, training and resources, to develop their languages and work on translation into each language.

Thinking outside the box

Friday, December 5th, 2014 by Jo Johnson

Sometimes we consider the needs around the world and feel overwhelmed. Maybe we even consider how we can go and make a difference and then doubt that the skills we have would be useful.

Here are the stories of two British teachers who instead of going overseas to be teachers, used their teaching skills to make a difference as literacy specialists.

Barbara tells us:

img87‘I spent over twenty years as a teacher in London. Later I became an advisory teacher leading in-service courses for teachers. Helping children, young people and adults to develop and enjoy using their literacy skills was one of the best aspects of my different roles.

When, in 2002, I stood in front of 25 educators as a literacy specialist, I had had the year-long Wycliffe training in which Literacy was one of the components. However, in order to facilitate the development of a mother tongue education programme I leaned heavily on the experiences I gained from teaching. I used the skills I developed through teaching to help participants to develop their writing ability in the mother tongue and to write stories that would appeal to new and developing readers. Some of those stories became books now being used in schools.’

In contrast, Liz’s story goes like this:

‘I was a teaching assistant (TA) with primary school children for two years before my husband and I went to work in a project in South West Tanzania as literacy workers. There were many differences between my TA work in Sheffield and literacy work in Tanzania, as you can imagine!

In Tanzania I was primarily focused on a Basic Literacy programme with preschool children. I was mainly involved in preparing resources and training teachers to deliver them, rather than interacting with the children themselves as I had done previously. However, I used many of the same skills; preparing lessons and working out how to use the resources available to engage children with literacy. Most importantly, my aims were ultimately the same and I was excited about enabling children to reach their full potential and all the opportunities being literate would open up for them, not least to be able to read the Word of God.’

Please join us as we pray:

  • For God to call many to literacy work, especially those who already have transferable skills.
  • For those who are actively considering if God is calling them to work overseas with Wycliffe. Some of those will be attending First Steps events early next year. Pray they will clearly know what God is calling them to.

See where in the world you could go to make a difference as a literacy specialist.

This Jesus can speak our language!

Saturday, September 6th, 2014 by Ruth

The story goes that, back in 1917, Wycliffe founder Cameron Townsend started out in his missionary career offering Spanish Bibles to locals in Guatemala.  A Cakchiquel man, finding material in Spanish incomprehensible, challenged him with, “If your God is so great, why can’t he speak my language?”

This heartbreaking question provoked a dramatic response. Townsend himself went on to translate the New Testament into that man’s language within 10 years.  And nearly 100 years later, following Townsend’s footsteps, God has raised up hundreds of individuals and partner organisations with one vision: to see God’s word translated into every remaining living language, so that this question would be forever answered.

In 2014 – 6,918 languages worldwide.  Only 513 languages with complete Bibles. 1,576 languages still remain with no known Scripture, representing around 98 million people.

Where translation work is underway, the exclamations abound.  People are hearing God speak their language for the first time.  Take this recent showing of The JESUS Film in the Mara area of Tanzania:


Jesus Film premier, Mara Region

Our SIL Kabwa and Zanaki translators translated the script for these films and were instrumental in finding the voice actors needed.  We are praising God for the tremendous response to the film premiers which took place in April.  To illustrate a little what the response was like, let me tell you what our office’s Partnership Officer, himself a Zanaki man, Pastor Willy Futakamba- reported after the Zanaki Jesus Film Premier. 70+ adults (children were at least another 70) came forward in response to the Gospel message given along with the film. The next day 3 men who had been at the film tracked Pastor Futakamba down at his home. “We now can see that this Jesus can speak our language.  We want to become Christians.  Please tell us where we should go and what we should do.” They were ready to completely leave their previous lives behind and were seeking out a Christian community for which they could join.  God has truly blessed these premiers.  Pray that He will continue to bless these films as they will be used in evangelism around the Kabwa and Zanaki communities. (source:


” The greatest missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue. It never needs a furlough, and is never considered a foreigner.” Townsend, Cameron — Founder, Wycliffe Bible Translators 

You can help to give the story by praying, giving, going, or telling others.

Cheers in church!

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 by Ruth

When was the last time a Bible reading in your church moved the whole congregation to shout, clap and cheer?  Only a few weeks ago in Luhanga, in the Sangu community of Tanzania, that’s exactly what happened!

Andy, writing on, tells us the whole story:

The whole passage of the prodigal son was read by a Sangu translator to the receptive church congregation. (Mbeya Cluster – Tanzania)

I was invited to preach in a church in Luhanga in the Sangu area. My plan was to preach about the prodigal son, a story found in Luke 15. The little church was packed with people. 200 adults and 60 children were counted (as announced by the one who led the service).

When my time to preach came I started with some explanations and then read a few verses in Sangu (Luke 15:1-2). The people liked me reading their language and clapped and cheered.  A bit later Abedy, one of our Sangu translators read the whole passage of the “prodigal son”… (full story)

Freshly printed Gospels of Luke in the Sangu language had been delivered to the translation office in Mbeya, just at the beginning of July.  But the translators at the Luhanga church were caught totally unprepared for the many in the congregation who wanted to buy their own copy.  The copies they had with them were snapped up, and Abedy had to return the following week with extras.

God’s word is heard most clearly in the language we understand best… and in the Luhanga church, they heard him loud and clear that week! Find out how you can help to give the story.

A very good day

Thursday, June 12th, 2014 by Hannah

What events make a day one to remember? Good weather, good moods, good health? A productive use of time at the office or progress made on a project? Ben Gerth has been documenting on his blog the stages of translation for the Jita team translating the first Scripture, and in this extract he describes what made one day a very good day:

Neema, Ben, Magesa and Magoma hold copies of Jonah in Jita.

It was a fun day. It was fun to receive the first copies of Jonah hot off the press (literally). It was fun to hand a copy to Neema and Magesa and Magoma, the Jita translators. It was fun to say “thank you” to them for all their hard work. It was fun to deliver a copy to our next door neighbor, who is a Jita man, and watch him immediately gather his fellow Jita people and start reading the book of Jonah. It was fun to take copies of Jonah out to the village and sell them for [around 18p] each. (The money goes to our office to cover a portion of the printing costs). It was fun to watch people smile when they read the book of Jonah in the Jita language for the first time EVER!

It’s fun to think that Jita people can now learn that Yahweh is the God of heaven, who made the sea and dry land (Jonah 1:9). They will discover that Yahweh sees all the evil that people do (Jonah 1:2). They can read how Yahweh exercises sovereign control over all of his creation (Jonah 1:4, 1:17, 2:10, 4:6, 4:7, 4:8). They can rejoice to see that Yahweh rescues his people when they repent of their sins (Jonah 2:9). They will be excited to see that Yahweh shows mercy to pagan nations who repent (Jonah 3:5, 4:11). They will savor the glorious truth that Yahweh is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster (Jonah 4:2).

There’s more from Ben about the Jita translation work and the previous stages of the work on his blog.

Jonah’s a fantastic book, but it’s very short. Even with this small part of Scripture in their language, the Jita language has joined the minority of languages that has access to some of the Bible. More than 4,000 languages still don’t have the Bible and of those, 1,919 are still waiting for a translation project to begin. Join the team and support Bible translation.

Worth more than many apples

Sunday, April 27th, 2014 by Hannah

How much is the Bible worth to you? It’s a difficult one to answer: the only measurements we can easily see are the £15 at the bookshop or the 15 minutes reading in the morning or evening.

On his blog, Mark Woodward reports a conversation between a pastor working on Bible translation and a local apple seller in Tanzania which gives us a different picture of the Bible’s worth.

Last week a very old man, an Mzee, came to our compound selling apples. They were not very good apples, and they were very small.

First I said “No, Father [a term of respect for an older man],” but I wanted to encourage him, so I told him I would buy one apple.
“Take two,” he said. “They are very good apples. I raised them myself.”

So I took two apples, but I paid him for three. Then I asked him “Mzee! Do you go to church?”

“Yes, I go to church” he said.

“Mzee, do you know Jesus as your Saviour?” I asked him.

“Yes, I know Him” he said.

“Then I have a gift for you.” I told him. I went back into my office and got a Scripture portion in his language. The old man was Kinga, so I gave him a Gospel of Mark in Kinga. He thanked me and left.

About ten minutes later there was a very loud knocking at my office door. It was the Mzee. He held out to me a big pile of apples in both hands.

“You must take these,” he said.

“Me? Take your apples? No! Why?” I said.

“You must take them. The book! The book you gave me. It blesses my heart! I will keep it always.”

And then he said “I have no way to know what such a book is worth. Truly it is worth more than many apples.”

Read more from Mark Woodward on his blog.

Even if this man had all the apples in the world, he couldn’t pay for a complete Bible in his language because it doesn’t exist yet. But if you think the Bible is worth something to you – worth giving to someone else – you can play a part in giving the Bible to the Kinga in Tanzania and others around the world.

Photo by Sven Teschke, via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 2.0 DE

One for the language lovers!

Sunday, April 13th, 2014 by Hannah

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 by Hannah

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.