What do riding a bike and translating the Bible have in common?

One of the joys of working in Africa is discovering the richness of her languages. Across the continent, these languages are full of intriguing proverbs. For example: ‘The fruits of the labor of a lazy person cannot be eaten.’ ‘He who earns his living in the sun eats in the shade.’ ‘I pointed out to you the stars and all you saw was the tip of my finger.’

Words paint wonderful pictures, and few know how to paint a better picture than Samuel Mubbala. Sam is translating God’s word into the Lugwere language of Uganda. He has been involved in trials using a computer adaptation software program, Adapt It.

By using the program, translators can create an initial draft (pre-draft) that will help them get started more quickly on the challenging work of Bible translation. Trials have been conducted using Adapt It on Bantu languages in Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda.

Recently Sam was asked if he found the program boring or not challenging enough. Sam, a graduate of the Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology, had this to say: ‘After going through training (linguistic and translation), I felt that trying Adapt It would be a big mistake. I had learned how to use other sources, how to do exegesis, etc, so I had an initial negative response. I saw the program as useful for those who’ve done less training. But then I reconsidered and decided to try it on experimental grounds. I found it to be a good thing. I discovered that using Adapt It was not running away from the normal cycle of the translation process, but it was like having two bicycles, one with one gear and one with four gears, both going up hill. With the single gear bicycle, you can still get up the hill with your own strength. But having multiple gears helps you get up the hill more quickly. This program helps make the task less formidable, and you can still use your academic skills to further refine the translation process.’

The sign of a wise man is his willingness to ask questions and try something new. Sam is such a wise man. As the Swahili proverb says, ‘He who does not ask questions has nothing to learn.’