For those who don’t have the Bible in their language, Bible translation is an urgent need.
But to translate the Bible in an accurate, natural way so that it can be used for generations to come requires a long-term commitment. A full Bible translation takes a long time to complete – so what is the process and what are some of the obstacles that can arise?
Bible translation projects face prep work in the form of raising local awareness and support for the project, finding and training the right translators, and finding the right people to join the project from overseas. Projects which concern previously unwritten languages also require language analysis and orthography design and testing (creating and testing a written form of the language) before translation can start.
Once translation is underway, delays and bumps in the road are generally par for the course. Bible translators are people; and illness, children, study, interdenominational and interpersonal conflict can all affect a project.
But even without delays like these, producing good quality Bible translations is a slow process. The Bible is a long, complex book written in a different time and culture, and an accurate rendition in another language is a tall order not to be taken lightly!
Passages are first painstakingly translated by a team made up of mother-tongue speakers and Bible translation experts (mother-tongue speakers themselves often being the experts). Next, a translation consultant is called in to review the entire text.
Issues with just about any aspect of a translation can crop up all the way up until printing (and sometimes even after printing). Sometimes an already well-tested writing system still requires some minor tweaks, other times the language in question doesn’t have a word for a key concept such as forgiveness, or a particular Bible story needs to be written more clearly so that it communicates what is intended.
Read about a Nigerian translation team’s journey dealing with the word manger in Wycliffe US’s article Does It Matter Which Word We Use?.