Lay the foundations for Bible translation by analysing the building blocks of languages.

‘We wouldn’t commission a builder to build a new church building without first ensuring that the foundations were solid and the ground well-prepared. Likewise, before translation can start there is a lot of groundwork to be done in understanding how a language works, and then developing the language – like designing a writing system for an unwritten language so it can be used in new ways that are needed for translation.

‘Through this process of understanding and developing their language, the unique beauty of each language is uncovered and finds its way into the translation. Then a community affirms that this really is God’s word in their language! This is what doing good linguistics is all about.’

Paul Murrell, linguist serving with Wycliffe

Many of the 1,600 languages where Bible translation is still needed do not yet have a written form.

The majority have never been analysed or documented.

In many cases, language communities are keen to see their language developed, but lack training and encouragement.

‘There are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning.’ 1 Corinthians 14:10

Working alongside members of a language community, a linguist will work towards:

  • The formation of local language committees, who will guide and promote language development
  • Identifying gifted mother-tongue speakers and training them to participate fully in the project
  • A thorough linguistic analysis of the sound system
  • A practical alphabet that is approved and accepted by the community
  • A detailed analysis of the grammatical system and language structure, which will help translators produce a high-quality translation
  • A language database, often leading to a more fully developed dictionary.

Skills and experience

The School of Language and Scripture provides training in linguistics. Applicants for linguistic work:

  • are usually – but not always – educated to degree level
  • have well-developed analytical abilities
  • sometimes have a background in linguistics or languages – but we also welcome enquiries from those who have studied mathematics or any other analytical subject.

The impact of language development can ripple out far beyond Bible translation, transforming the lives of individuals and communities in many ways.

Watch the ‘Ripple effects of Bible translation’ video to find out more:

We would love to talk to you about serving God through linguistics – contact us here.

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