Bible Translation News

(Photo: Courtesy of Wycliffe Canada Archives.)

Canadian Wycliffe Veteran Passes Away

Dr. George Cowan, holder of many Canadian “firsts” in Wycliffe Bible Translators, died in February at the age of 100 in Kissimmee, Fla. 

Born in 1916 in Kelwood, Man., Cowan (picture above) was the first Canadian to take linguistic training in the U.S. offered by SIL, Wycliffe’s predecessor and key partner organization. In 1942, he was among the first Canadians to join the U.S.-based Wycliffe Bible Translators (before Wycliffe had an official presence in Canada).

In 1942 he moved to Mexico, where he met and then married Florence Hansen, a fellow North American who shared his passion for linguistics. They settled in Huautla de Jiménez, Mexico, collaborating with Mazatec colleagues to translate the New Testament into their mother tongue.

In the mid-1940s, Cowan directed the first SIL training for aspiring Bible translators in Canada, at what is now Briercrest Bible College, near Moose Jaw, Sask. Many decades later, he founded the Canada Institute of Linguistics (CanIL), Wycliffe Canada's key training program. Cowan also held several international leadership positions with SIL, Wycliffe and its partner agencies.

“No one exemplified Wycliffe and its commitment to reaching people with the good news in a language and form they relate to best more than George Cowan,” says Bob Creson, president and CEO of Wycliffe U.S.A. “His passion and prayer life are legendary, and he will be missed greatly by the whole Wycliffe family.”

Wycliffe Caribbean Gets New Headquarters

Wycliffe Caribbean is praising God for providing new headquarters to help it promote and advance Bible translation in the wider Caribbean area.

A 60-room hotel in Kingston, Jamaica, was purchased at below market value for Wycliffe Caribbean’s mobilization/training centre and headquarters.

For the months of work needed in the development, considerable funding was required in each stage, including payment for the work teams, security and the remodelling design.

There's an App for That

SIL, Wycliffe’s main partner organization, has created free computer software that helps speakers of minority languages build customized apps to display mother tongue books on Android smartphones and tablets.

Called Reading App Builder, it permitted Anabel, a speaker of Me’phaa, a language of Mexico, to enter the text, pictures and audio of a children’s story in her mother tongue. The resulting interactive app reads the story out loud, highlighting each word as it is spoken, so a beginning reader can easily follow along. 

Reading apps built with the software can be passed between smartphones via Bluetooth, or uploaded to the Internet so others can download them.

Meanwhile, SIL has also created Dictionary App Builder, free software for language communities to publish apps containing their dictionaries for Android smartphones and tablets.

New Ethnologue Released on International Mother Language Day

This past February, SIL (Wycliffe’s key partner organization) celebrated UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day by releasing Ethnologue, 20th Edition. The annual event focuses on our planet’s language diversity and variety.

“Mother Language Day . . . reminds the world of the importance of the lesser-known languages of the world,” said Dr. Gary Simons. He is an editor of the SIL book and database (, which contains information about all of the known languages around the globe.

(Photo: SIL International)

“Because knowledge about these languages has been a focus of the Ethnologue since its inception in 1951, we are happy to be able to provide our most up-to-date information about the languages of the world each year on this day.”

The newest edition lists a total of 7,099 living languages worldwide, a net increase of two living languages since the 19th edition was published one year ago.

In France, Uganda and Mexico, SIL staff participated in celebrations of International Mother Language Day. For example, Dr. Barbara Trudell, SIL’s senior literacy and education consultant, attended the UNESCO-hosted event in Paris (pictured above). She presented an interactive session on “Sustainable Futures through Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education: Answering the Difficult Questions.

Wycliffe Germany Launches Refugee-related Website

Europe’s large influx of refugees has prompted Wycliffe Germany to launch a Scripture resource website called

Designed for Christians living in Europe, the website provides information about Scripture resources in the languages spoken by the people arriving from other nations. Links to Bibles, Bible stories, videos and audio recordings are listed for the languages of refugees coming from Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Resources for new neighbours from other countries will be added in the coming months.

Wycliffe Germany is asking for prayer that churches and Christian refugee networks will find out about and use their new website, and that many refugees and displaced people will find hope, help and comfort through these resources.

SD Cards Carry Scripture-based Media

New technology is continuing to provide creative ways to distribute Scriptures translated for minority language groups, including those in sensitive parts of the world.

In one language community in West Asia, a Wycliffe partner organization plans to distribute 250,000 SD cards, ultra-small flash memory cards designed with large storage capacity. The cards will carry the Acts of the Apostles film and other Scripture media in the local language.

Different organizations are working together to make this strategy successful, so that many people will hear and respond to the Scriptures in their heart language. 

Audio Scriptures Speak to Dante's Heart

(Photo: JAARS)

In Asia several decades ago, a couple named their son Dante* after a Hindu god. He grew up in a village that rejected Jesus and His message of salvation.

But the Lord had other plans for Dante’s life. An audio Scripture team was ready to record Bible stories in the language of his people and searched for help. They found Dante, one of the few readers in the largely illiterate community, to narrate the script. The 22-year-old was hired to fill several reading roles in the recordings of the Open Bible, a series of 50 stories spanning from Creation to the second coming of Christ.

The Scripture stories began to reach Dante’s heart, even when he was just studying his script in preparation for the recording.

“This is amazing!” he said. “I am hearing such stories for the first time. I believe they are for me, too.”

As the recording work progressed, Dante was curious about Jesus, eventually asking Him to come into his life. Understanding the message in his heart language had made all the difference to a young man named after a god of Hinduism.

*pseudonym used due to sensitivity

Celebrating Culture, Developing Community

The Lezgi-speaking people of the Caucasus Mountains have developed a new website with the assistance of specialists with SIL, Wycliffe’s main field partner organization.

Created to celebrate and share Lezgi language and culture, this website features Lezgi dictionaries, a Lezgi primer for children, and pages about their art and literature. The website has helped stimulate other local efforts, such as a local newspaper, a Lezgi radio station, a cultural journal and additional websites. New music ensembles, dance troupes, and a collective of mother-tongue poets have also formed.

The website has been a catalyst for healthy community development, enabling the Lezgi people to express their language, cultural heritage and distinct way of life in the Caucasus region. With renewed confidence, they are openly embracing their unique identity while also engaging in the wider information-connected world.

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Will it Be Acceptable?

Acceptability is achieved when Bible translators have mitigated all (or most) of the reasons that people might reject the translation they produce.