Photo courtesy of UNICEF

Bible Translation News

Languages with Scripture a 'Pleasant Surprise'

Nearly half of the world's living languages now have some of God's Word, according to new statistics from Wycliffe Global Alliance.

As of November 2016, WGA reported that 3,223 (45 per cent) of the 7,097 languages spoken on the globe have some Scripture portions. 

The international umbrella organization (to which Wycliffe Canada belongs) expected to see this number surpass the 3,000 mark in 2016, but was pleasantly surprised to discover it was much higher. 

“By combining key lists, we identified some previously unreported Scripture. . . ,” WGA explained. “This year we have also included Scripture in languages previously excluded from Wycliffe’s counts due to a lack of known first-language speakers, and we have expanded our definition of ‘portions.’”

WGA statistics now include a wider range of initial products as portions, such as translated Scripture from within a book of the Bible, or a selection of Scriptures from across several books.

Of the languages with some of God’s Word, WGA says 636 have a complete Bible, 1,442 have a New Testament, and 1,145 have portions and stories. More than 2,400 known active translation/language programs are in progress, with WGA organizations involved in 83 per cent of these.

Across the globe, however, 1.5 billion people do not have the full Bible in their first language. And between 1,700 and 1,800 languages—spoken by 160 million people—still need Bible translation to begin.

For complete statistics, visit

Noted SIL Linguist Dies at 101

Evelyn Griset Pike
(Photo: Courtesy of SIL International)

Evelyn Griset Pike, the widow of world-renowned scholar Kenneth Pike, died on June 3, 2016, at the age of 101. Evelyn (pictured at left), who was also the niece of Wycliffe’s founder, William Cameron Townsend, made her own mark in the field of linguistics and Bible translation. 

Along with Townsend and her husband, Evelyn Pike helped found SIL International, Wycliffe’s key partner organization. Although she co-authored some of her husband’s books and papers about linguistic theory, she demonstrated keen insight herself and is credited with helping solve numerous linguistic and translation challenges. 

Pike also taught classes at the University of Oklahoma in Norman for many years, and in countless workshops around the world. She served as a passionate advocate for minority language groups well into her retirement years. 

Nepal Quake Victims Receive Trauma Healing

(Photo: Courtesy of SIL International)

In April 2015, a 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal, killing thousands and destroying more than 600,000 homes. In response, Wycliffe’s key partner organization, SIL International, partnered with a Nepalese ministry to facilitate a trauma healing workshop this past May. During 14 small group sessions (pictured above), participants heard and discussed stories, created songs and shared their own stories.

The Healing the Wounds of Trauma workbook and workshops were originally developed by SIL staff and professional counsellors to help communities that had been traumatized by war. Resources have been translated into more than 150 languages and two new versions are now available: one for those working with children, and an oral story version for communities with no written language. 

SIL continues to work with partners worldwide to train and certify facilitators to care for traumatized people.

UNICEF Review Affirms Value of Mother-tongue Education

A recent review of 400 African languages commissioned by UNICEF supports global evidence that mother-tongue education is a critical aspect of quality education. 

Authored by Dr. Barbara Trudell of SIL International, Wycliffe’s key partner, the report entitled The Impact of Language Policy and Practice on Children’s Learning: Evidence from Eastern and Southern Africa, reviews language policies in 21 African countries. It concludes that although the number of children attending primary school in Eastern and Southern Africa has risen significantly, the quality of education has not. 

“One of the major reasons for this discrepancy,” reports Trudell, “. . . is the use of international languages as languages of instruction, as early as Grade 1 and even in preschool.”

These languages are unfit to serve as a medium for learning for the millions of kids who don’t speak them.

SIL has been a strong advocate for mother-tongue education for many decades.

Tongans Mobilize for Bible Translation

(Photo: Courtesy of Else Patten)

This past May, the Bible Translation Organization of Tonga appointed Maxy Koloamatangi (pictured at right) as director of the five-year-old indigenous agency. The 35-year-old Tongan man heads a small team that promotes the work of Bible translation in local schools and churches, as well as Tongan communities in New Zealand and Australia.

A monolingual people, Tongans have had the Bible in their language since 1862.

“I have a heart and a passion for people who don't have any Bible,” says Maxy, “for the people who are . . . still waiting for someone to bring the Good News.”

Lupe 'Ovalau Mokena is preparing to do just that in Papua New Guinea. The Tongan woman will be the first Bible translation missionary to be sent out from Tonga. It is a nation of 170 islands—36 are inhabited—in the South Pacific Ocean, located about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand. 

No Word for “King”

How do you translate the word “kingdom” when a language has no word for “king?” The Tigak people of Papua New Guinea have wrestled with this very issue, along with several other key terms encountered when translating Scripture.

“Key terms” are words in the Bible that are especially important for understanding its message, such as “grace,” “forgiveness,” and “salvation,” and they are often difficult to translate.

At one point, community members from several Tigak villages joined the discussion in a series of workshops. Although a final decision was not reached at that time, the community was energized to continue talking about translation and how to best communicate key terms in their language. 

While the Tigak continue their search for the right word for “kingdom,” translators are using the phrase, “the place where God rules.” 

Panama’s Kuna People Receive “JESUS” film

The “JESUS” film in Panama’s San Blas Kuna language premiered this past July at a major theatre in Panama City. Since then, the film has been shown in various Kuna communities throughout Panama.

About 50,000 Kuna speakers live on 49 major islands of the San Blas archipelago, while another 100,000-plus live elsewhere in Panama. 

Wycliffe’s involvement with the San Blas Kuna began in 1982 when Keith and Wilma Forster, from South Africa and Canada respectively, began working with local partners to translate the New Testament. Four years after its completion in 1995, a team led by the Forsters began translating the Old Testament. 

The translation of the entire Bible was dedicated in 2014. 


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