Global Bible Translation News


A new centre to promote the scholarly research of minority languages has been launched, taking its name after the first Wycliffe recruit to complete PhD studies.

Created by SIL International (Wycliffe’s key partner), the Pike Center for Integrative Scholarship is named after Kenneth L. Pike (in photo). A world-renowned linguistics scholar nominated multiple times for the Nobel Peace Prize, Pike became the first of 400-plus Wycliffe personnel earning doctorates.

SIL says the Pike Center will build on the organization’s legacy of making research its core strategy. Its ultimate goal is to increase the knowledge and use of smaller languages as instruments for their speakers and communities to develop and flourish as God intends.

Around the world, many speakers of the nearly 7,000 lesser-known languages are marginalized and unable to reach their full potential. They are still unable to use their mother tongue to learn new life skills, develop literacy and grow in Christian faith.

Among its activities, the new centre will link established scholars to mentor rising scholars working to increase development of lesser-known languages. Pike Center will also sponsor and fund scholars’ research and publications so others can benefit from them.


(Photo: SIL International)

SIL International, Wycliffe’s key partner, released eight fonts in 2017 that it created to represent the scripts of minority languages (including the one pictured below). To date, SIL has created 27 font families, the vast majority of which are for languages with non-Latin, non-Arabic scripts.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

SIL has done font and typeface-related work since it was founded in the 1930s, in large part so Bible translations could be printed. In the early days, this meant sometimes shaving off part of a typewriter key to produce a variation of a letter unique to a language. Today, SIL font designers create fonts using sophisticated computer software.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Decades ago, the primary focus of font-making was for printing words on paper; today, written content must also be displayed on various electronic devices. Being able to type and display fonts correctly gives minority language groups important advantages beyond having and reading the translated Word of God. Fonts are needed to make written materials for these groups and for strengthening literacy among both children and adults.


After five decades of challenges in a translation project of Brazil, Wycliffe’s Bob and Barb Campbell are requesting prayer that the Scriptures will now produce plenty of fruit among the Jamamadí people.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The Campbells began the work in 1963, but their attempts to learn the language were extremely slow and difficult. For the first few decades, the Jamamadí would not share phrases from their language. They believed that spirits would gain control of them when their words were captured. And on one occasion, someone attempted to kill Bill, but the assailant’s revolver would not fire.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Then after 27 years, the community was impacted by the story of Noah in their mother tongue. Forty-one people decided to follow Christ and the Jamamadí church was born. The people also overcame their fear of repeating Jamamadí words with the Campbells. This past summer, the Jamamadí New Testament was presented in a festive celebration attended by 200 people in a newly constructed church building. The ceremony finished with everyone singing praises to God and hugging each other. According to the Ethnologue, the Jamamadí live in seven villages of central Brazil and number just 800. 


The death in 2017 of a translator working on the Lokaa Old Testament in Nigeria is being used by God to move the project forward. 

The passing of Erasmus and his funeral service brought increased awareness to the project and caused Lokaa speakers to be more supportive of it. In the community where Erasmus grew up, there is a new spirit in people to come alongside the work. People regularly ask for copies of the translated New Testament. 

Meanwhile, the rest of the translation team presses forward to finish the Old Testament and promote mother-tongue literacy. Scripture apps will soon be available on cellphones so this group of 350,000 people can further engage with God’s Word and be set free from the many fears they live with every day. 


As the New Testament translation in the Toba language of Paraguay, South America, nears completion, team members have found a unique way to encourage Scripture use: soccer. 

In two Toba communities, they teach mother-tongue Bible classes along with fútbol at the elementary school. They also lead Scripture studies for youth and adults. Younger children’s mothers usually accompany their children and stay to listen to Bible studies, so a Scripture memorization contest was organized for them. 

Radio broadcasts, which are popular in this oral culture, reach the wider community with Scripture and Bible lessons among Toba speakers in the South American nation.


A translation project for speakers of the Fa D’ambu language of Equatorial Guinea, Africa, is progressing well. 

The translation team met all of its goals in 2017, including completion of a draft translation of the New Testament. The team also published a Bible-based AIDS educational book and cellphone app, which received an immediate positive response from users. In addition, almost every Fa D’ambu speaker who owns a cellphone has downloaded the audiovisual Scripture app of the translated book of Jonah. 

The 2,500 Fa D’ambu speakers live on the small island of Annobón. It is a 600-metre-high, extinct volcano separated from the Equatorial Guinea mainland by 360 km of the Atlantic Ocean. The Fa D’ambu people are mostly farmers, fisherman and commercial loggers, who generally practise animism. Though about 30 per cent of them claim they are Christian, their spiritual growth has been hampered by the lack of God’s Word in their mother tongue.


Bible translation agencies in the Philippines are joining hands to strategically and prayerfully tackle the remaining Bible translation needs in the country. 

The Philippines Bible Society (PBS), SIL Philippines, Translators Association of the Philippines, Ethnos 360 and Wycliffe Philippines identified and prioritized 45 language groups during their February consultation. 

“We will be undertaking Bible translation needed by these remaining languages,” says PBS General Secretary Dr. Nora Lucero. “We are organizations in the field working together for this dream, to cover all native languages in our country without a copy of God’s Word.”


Speakers of the Safwa language in Tanzania, Africa, are enjoying listening to God’s Word in their mother tongue. Scripture recordings of the books of Ruth, Jonah and Mark have recently become available in the language, spoken by about 160,000 people (according to the Ethnologue). 

The recordings are distributed on Storytellers, small audio devices with enough volume for smaller groups of listeners. 

Those who have heard the Scriptures are happy that Safwa people from their own areas were used to narrate the stories. “Safwa food should be cooked by a Safwa person,” they explain. 

Several people who listened to God’s Word on Storytellers have started attending church. 


Attendance at a Colombia conference has prompted an indigenous Bible translator and his friends to share God’s Word with more of their people. 

The translator and two couples are from the Emberá-Tadó, a language group of about 2,300 speakers in northwestern Colombia, South America. 

After attending the first International Indigenous Leaders’ Conference in Bogotá, they returned to their area with a fervent desire to bring the Scriptures to neighbouring villages. 

They journeyed eight hours by bus and canoe to reach their destination, where hours were spent sharing and answering questions about what the Bible teaches. The Emberá-Tadó people were interested because they could learn about Jesus in their mother tongue. 

Only portions of the Bible are yet available in the language and the literacy rate among the Emberá-Tadó is less than one per cent.


Like what you’re reading? Then don’t miss an issue. Subscribe to be notified when the next issue is published.

Already a subscriber? Log in here

Next Story

Beyond Words

Translating Unknown Ideas

Translation can quickly come to a halt when something in the biblical source text doesn’t exist in the language into which it is being translated.