Bible Translation Reaches Key Milestone
For the first time ever, languages in the world with active Bible translation projects actually outnumber those that still need work to begin in them.
According to new statistics from the Wycliffe Global Alliance, Bible translation is currently underway in 2,075 languages, while only 1,967 languages still need translation to start. A year ago, the figures were 1,976 in progress and 2,040 in need respectively.
The milestone in the global Bible translation effort reflects the ongoing acceleration that has resulted since Vision 2025 was adopted by Wycliffe and others in 1999. It aims to see Bible translation in progress in every language needing it by the year 2025. In 1999, 3,000 languages still needed translation to begin.
Breaking down the current 2,075 in-progress figure, 717 Bible translation projects are in Africa; 672 in Asia; 350 in the Pacific region; 282 in the Americas; and 54 in Europe. About three-quarters of the Bible translation projects underway involve Wycliffe personnel.
Of those languages still needing Bible translation to begin, 790 are spoken in Africa; 616 are in Asia; 404 are in the Pacific area; 81 are in the Americas; and 76 are in Europe.
Former Wycliffe Canada Director Dies
Ray Nicholson, a former director of Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada, passed away this past October. He was 82.
Nicholson (pictured at left) led Wycliffe Canada from 1972-74. That post was part of a career of service with Wycliffe that spanned 56 years.
Nicholson and his wife Ruth began their work with Wycliffe in 1957 in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Ray was involved in translation and literacy among the Fore people and spent six years as director of the PNG field orientation program. He later served the branch in relating to the PNG government (1974-76) and held the position of regional area director in PNG (1980-89). Most recently (from 1990 to 2012), the Nicholsons worked as Wycliffe representatives in the Mount Forest, Ont. area.
Nicholson was known as a gentle man who loved Jesus and had a heart for Bibleless people. He is survived by his wife Ruth, five adult children, 19 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
GILLBT Marks Golden Anniversary
Wycliife Global Alliance’s member organization in Ghana, Africa, has wrapped up a year-long celebration of its 50 years of service. The Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation (GILLBT) held a two-day conference in Accra this past September, on the state of Bible translation and use. It was a time of reflection on the past, present and future of Bible translation in the languages of Ghana and all of Africa.
GILLBT was established in 1962, with the participation and help of SIL International (Wycliffe’s main field partner). Since then GILLBT has been doing Bible translation, language work and mother-tongue literacy promotion in many of Ghana’s nearly 80 language communities.
Through GILLBT’s efforts, the New Testament has been translated into 28 languages, and the Old Testament into five. GILLBT currently has four New Testament and 11 Old Testament projects in progress.
From Torture to Triumph
Ethiopia’s Gamo people arrived by the thousands at Chencha town square this past June to celebrate the launch of the New Testament in their language.
The celebration was a far cry from the years before and during the communist regime in the African country. Many Gamo Christians were brought to the same square then to be beaten, tortured and martyred for their faith in Christ.
The Gamo are located in the southwestern part of Ethiopia, home to 88 languages. Personnel with six organizations, including Wycliffe, are part of a joint venture to translate the Scriptures into the nearly 30 languages that still need them.
Software Prepared for Sign Language Translation
Wycliffe personnel are creating dictionary software for use in Bible translation among the world’s estimated 400 sign languages used by the Deaf.
The computer software is designed so Deaf people will be able to record their sign languages, learn how to write what they can sign (using several different options) and create dictionaries.
Hearing people will also be able to use the software to learn and analyze sign languages. Because the Deaf are very visual, the program uses icons with few written menu items.
The software is set for field testing in Deaf translation projects in Asia and the Pacific. Developers are hoping this will yield plenty of helpful feedback for improving the tool and releasing it more widely.
PNG Bible Storytellers Get Rigorous Training
The Bible Translation Association of Papua New Guinea (BTA) is rejoicing that it now has a core group of trained personnel to expand the Bible storytelling movement in their Pacific nation.
A Wycliffe Global Alliance member, BTA held the final part of a three-year Oral Bible Storytelling training project this past September. The 28 graduates (such as the one pictured at left) were from nine language groups.
Graduates demonstrated they can learn a Bible story thoroughly in English (one of PNG’s official languages); tell it in their own language; test the story with other speakers of the languages; and check the revised story with a person with good Bible knowledge.The storytellers will go through this rigorous process for each Bible story because they don’t yet have God’s Word translated into their own languages.
Bible storytelling is a growing strategy in Wycliffe to systematically present the Bible’s message in oral form so people in oral cultures, like many of PNG’s 860 language groups, can understand it effectively.
Tool in Works for Translation Among 500 Bantu Languages
An important manual is being prepared to help Bible translation efforts for the 500 Bantu languages of eastern and southern Africa, where work is ongoing or yet to start.
The manual is one of the tools of the so-called Comparative Bantu Narrative Discourse Project. It will explain to translation teams and consultants how Bantu languages typically differ from the biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew in their grammar structure.
Steve Nicolle, translation/linguistics consultant with Wycliffe’s partner, SIL International, in Africa hopes the manual is completed by year’s end. It will be based on 15 Bantu languages spoken in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Mozambique and Kenya.
Bantu languages of sub-Saharan Africa share many similarities. Developing tools and materials for Bible translation and literacy will make the work more efficient.
"Before We Die"
Mozambique’s Takwane Bible translation team has completed a three-year project recording the Genesis Film in their language.
In addition, The Takwane mini-Bible (the books of Genesis, Exodus, Mark, Luke, Acts, Ephesians, 1 Timothy and Hebrews) has been prepared and is in use among the language’s 180,000 speakers.
But the team in the East African nation is not resting onits laurels: it is now translating in Matthew and Revelation.
“Everyone has been healthy and we have had few interruptions so we have enjoyed good progress,” reports a team leader. “As one of our colleagues said today, ‘We want to finish this before we die!’
“We are all feeling the momentum build as chapters slide into the ‘done’ column fairly regularly these days.”
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