This project aims to provide teams in the Central African Republic (CAR) with training in linguistics and translation so they can produce clear, accurate and natural Bibles in their own languages.
- Country: Central African Republic
- People reached: serving 14 languages, with a total of almost 1.5 million speakers
- Start date: 2016
The Central African Republic, covering an area slightly larger than Spain, is a landlocked country in the centre of the African continent with a tropical, equatorial climate: hot, dry winters and hot, wet summers. These conditions are ruinous for the country’s roads, which are often impassable due to floods and mud holes in the rainy season. CAR has natural resources of diamonds, uranium, timber, gold, oil and hydropower.
Due to the unrest which started in 2012 has forced most expatriate staff to leave the country, translation work in CAR has been hampered by a lack of consultants and trainers. Several New Testament translations are nearing completion but are delayed due to a backlog of books needing checking by consultants. Newer translation teams need training in linguistics and translation as a basis for their work.
This project will facilitate workshops for the translation teams in topics such as:
- discourse analysis – looking at natural texts and applying the principles found to the ongoing translation work, which helps create much more natural translations
- dictionary making – dictionaries are useful tools for the translators, as well as helping to raise the profile of the work in the communities
- Scripture use – training the teams in recording and Scripture app development, to help distribute translated portions of the Bible amongst the predominantly oral cultures in CAR.
The project will also contribute towards the cost of consultants travelling to the country to check and advise on each individual team’s translation work.
- to reduce the backlog of translation checking
- to improve the quality of the translations through adequate linguistic input and timely consultant feedback
- to train and equip Central African translators to become consultants in various domains
Feedback from workshops
‘This workshop has been a useful tool for us because it has built our capacity to improve our own work.’
‘During this workshop we were able to revise certain texts which we had already translated and make them more natural. I really enjoyed the workshop and everything we learned was very important for me. May the Almighty bless those who financed the workshop!’
At a recent church seminar, leaders asked our partners in CAR why certain language communities had translation projects and others didn’t. The representatives explained that their organisation waits for churches to show interest before it starts a project. As a result, leaders of the Gbanu and Ali language groups formally expressed interest in having their own translation project.
Please pray for:
- a return to peace and long-term stability for the whole country
- a solid linguistic foundation for every new translation project
- sufficient consultant availability to clear the backlog of translation checking, and the publication of these Scriptures in book, audio and digital format
- the identification and training of a new cohort of Central African linguists to support the ongoing translation work.
Ngando alphabet creation
In January this year two Ngando speakers, Matthieu and Jetron, travelled to Bangui to work with a consultant on their own language. Their community wants a Bible translation but their language has never been written down, so the first step was to analyse all the sounds in the language. They did this by recording a list of 1,700 words in Ngando, and then working out how many different sounds there were. They then assigned a symbol for each sound – unlike English, where one sound can have many different ways of writing it, or one letter can have several different sounds. This is one of the things which makes English so hard to read! They finished their three weeks together by creating an alphabet chart (pictured below) which they printed and took back to their community. Jetron and Matthieu were excited at this tangible progress, and said:
We know that there is a long way to go with this work. We hope to see the production of a Ngando dictionary, the JESUS Film and the Bible. We pray that the eternal God all-powerful will bless those who helped, and give them more strength in everything they do, so that the Ngando project can succeed.
One of the things consultants and translators have to work through together is the best way to translate idiomatic phrases. When consultant Will Sawers and the Banda-Linda team met recently, they discussed some Banda-Linda idioms. How do you think you would do at figuring them out? Have a go!
In Banda-Linda, what does the phrase ‘He has two mouths’ mean?
- he is very greedy
- he is a hypocrite
- he talks very loudly
And if someone ‘beats their chest’, what emotion are they showing?
Answers at the bottom of the page.
It’s important to use idioms in the language when you are translating, as it makes the translation come alive and sound much more natural. You have to get them right though; you don’t want to convey the wrong meaning!
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- good progress made by many teams in CAR over the past year
- an end to the conflict in CAR. Pray for God to raise up people of integrity at all levels of government, in the United Nations peacekeeping force, in local contexts, families and churches. May the unhealthy values that rule the lives of some in CAR be exchanged for good and godly values, and good role models emerge in parents, teachers, church leaders and community elders.
- the several CAR Bible translation teams nearing the end of their New Testaments. More than ever before, people want and need to hear God's word to them.
Answers to the brain-teaser: 2. he is a hypocrite, 3. pride