Thursday, 3 April 2008

Bible Translation is bigger than you think

Just in case you think Bible Translation is a back-room activity for the seriously academic, here is a blog from a Bible-translation type who thinks otherwise. For one, these days it is mostly carried out by mother-tongue speakers of the language. In many parts of the world these are believers, and in a few areas they might be quite well-educated. In areas where the church is well-developed, the Bible-translation programme is sponsored by the church, and church leaders are involved in choosing who might be suitable to work as translators. If expatriates are involved, they are usually helping out as coordinators, exegetical-advisors (know biblical languages), and linguistic researchers. The team is made up of quite a few people then:
  • Mother-tongue translators
  • Advisors who know biblical background and languages
  • Project Coordinator
  • Linguistic Research person
  • Tester(s)
  • Literacy worker(s)?
Much of what they do has to be decided as a team, especially when the consultant visits and helps them by checking books and other materials just before publication. Oh, and there might well be involvement in non-print media such as videos, CDs and tapes, and even some encouragement of song-writing. In larger languages radio work relies on materials produced by the translation team.

For the expatriate(s) the project begins with a period of language-learning, which starts small, but eventually involves the language-learner in lots of social contact. Without this their language-learning will plateau-off at a fairly mediocre level.

While language-learning, the person will also begin discussing how to set up the project with church leaders, if they exist in the area. So from early days there is a certain amount of PR involved in the work. During the translation the church leaders are involved in reviewing books of the Bible already translated, making suggestions for changes, and perhaps using trial editions in Bible-studies and for sermons.

So there is a certain amount of back-room work, research, study and so on. But there is also a need for Bible translators to be team-players. Which brings me to another point. Often the expatriates involved are from organisations other than Wycliffe. Why? Because people who go out intending to do other work realise that without a Bible translation nothing much is going to happen. And some people just love language work, and can't get away from it. These folk often have a maths or engineering or physics background, but not necessarily. Sometimes they just have the right minds for the job, and love it! So Bible translation these days involves partnership between different mission organisations.

Vision 2025 brings all these visions together, and with the goal of getting a translation up and running in every language that needs it by 2025. Quite a challenge!