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Bible-less languages and Bible-less people July 9, 2018

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, multilingualism, Statistics.
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People often get confused as to why there is a difference between the number of languages that don’t have any scripture and the number of languages in which Wycliffe and others report that scripture translation needs to begin.

scriptureandneeds2017

I’m wondering if we sometimes need to be more careful to distinguish between “Bible-less languages” and “Bible-less people”.

The simplest public messages on the need for Bible translation continue to imply that people cannot understand or respond to scripture unless it is in their language but research over the last 40 years has taught us that there are in fact many barriers to engagement. Which perhaps explains why there are so many millions of people who own or could easily access a Bible in their main (or only) language but never read it.

Language can obviously be a significant barrier (this is why I’ve spent the last 22 years of life working with Wycliffe and others involved in Bible translation). Promotional material has often implied that people only speak one language really well. This is sometimes nuanced with the idea that people only have a single “heart language” through which God can clearly connect  to them.

Many people speak more than one language equally well. Some are spoken to in multiple languages from birth, others acquire them one after another as they move into education or as they move from one place to another. It can still be true that for people who speak several languages well, one or two touch them more deeply. Language isn’t just about intellectual understanding but also about emotional connection, identity, and even trust.

2017BTstats-enThere are 3,312 languages with some scripture and 1,636 languages where translation is estimated as ‘needing to begin’. (figures from Wycliffe’s last official global statistics in Oct 2017)

Those ‘translation needs’ might rise or fall depending not just on linguistic analysis but upon the felt needs of the speakers.

As our understanding of the issues of multilingualism continues to grow it may be that some of the need is for initial connection with the Bible rather than ensuring that what ‘we’ see as the most important bits around salvation and Christian living are translated first.

One old story that comes to mind is the impact of genealogies for some cultures. Something the translators saw as secondary to the ‘important bits’ but which gave the local people the connection they needed –  a list of ancestors pointed to Jesus being a real person, the length of the list pointed to him being a very important person. Suddenly mere stories became true! In Joanne Shetlers’ book, “And The Word Came with Power“, it’s interesting to note that while Bible translation had a major impact, this discovery came from looking at a Bible in a majority language.

Meanwhile, I once met a young British man who had tried reading the Bible before but didn’t understand it. I showed him a modern translation opened “at random” to include the bit about God loving the world and giving his son so that those who believed could have eternal life – all wrapped up in John 3:16. The key to him engaging was John 1:37, “They answered, “Where do you live, Rabbi?” (This word means “Teacher.”)”
“Hey this is great!”, my new friend said, “It tells you what it means.”

Although there are still many people who are unreached and unevangelised, there are also billions of people do have easy access to the “important” bits in languages of head and heart but they have yet to make it past their own obstacles and make the connections.


For anyone wanting to read more deeply about multilingualism I’ve just downloaded a draft copy of “Language and Identity in a Multilingual, Migrating World“. I’ve got lots more of it to read but recommend John Watters’ section on “The Language of the Heart”. 

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BBC Pidgin and Pidgin Bibles September 12, 2017

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation.
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BBC pidgin news has arrived!

BBCPidgin - Meet the Team

You can click the picture to see an intro video of team with subtitles for those can catch the excitement but miss some of the words, because they don’t speak Pidgin.

Dis link na di home page of BBC News Pidgin wey you fit see all di news tori and gist from Naija, Africa and di whole world. 

PCMTSC

 

 Dis link for Good News in Nigerian Pidgin

 

The new BBC service launched on Aug 14th 2017. As languages, pidgins don’t always get good press, so this is good news, not just for speakers of Nigerian pidgin but for other speakers of other languages that have been looked down on.

Pidgins and Creoles are a vibrant mix of languages that emerge as trade languages taking in words and grammar from major languages (often of a foreign power) and from the local languages. Because of the similarity to the languages on which they are based they are often seen as broken English (or French, Dutch, Portuguese etc) rather than recognised as languages in their own right, and they are usually second languages, lacking the cultural ties and heritage of the main language of a people. But as their use continues they can often become the main language people use especially in urban areas.

They are rarely the language of literature, education and government but are instead the language of the street, of trade and of friendship between people from different backgrounds.

As such it’s no surprise that they can be great languages for the church, and also no surprise that not everyone agrees as to whether they are ‘holy enough’.

People often think that the Bible should sound like the King James Version, respectful, reverent and distant. Of course 400 years ago the language of the KJV didn’t sound ancient. It was fresh and contemporary and even scandalous to people would had only encountered the Bible in Latin.

It can be worth reflecting on what languages Jesus used. Did he teach people in the language of the government, of the religious leaders, or of the common people?

The New Testament in Nigerian Pidgin, was launched in 2012 and is available on several of the main multilingual Bible sites apps such as Bible.is and YouVersion both in print and audio. There is also a version of the Jesus Film in Nigerian Pidgin.

WESBSCAn audio version in Cameroonian Pidgin is also available and was launched in 2000

Elsewhere in the world there have been versions in Tok Pisin (Papua New Guinea) , Solomon Islands Pidgin, Hawaiian Pidgin (Da Jesus Book), Jamaican Patois, and given that there are over 90 different pidgins and creoles, probably several that I don’t know about. (But might add here when I do).

The Bible is always good news when it is received in languages that people understand and use every day for sharing life. There will be some “feel good” stories on the BBC Pidgin team but much of the news will probably continue to be about lives turned upside down. Good news turns lives from downside to up.

 

Bible Translation statistics and stories November 28, 2016

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, Statistics.
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In the 20 years I’ve been with Wycliffe, scripture has been made available in over 1000 languages for the first time ever!

For 20 years I’ve been both looking at the numbers and hearing the stories of the people involved in translation and of those who receive God’s word for the first time.

If you want to take a look at some of the numbers, a guided tour through this info graphic may be helpful.

bibletranslationstats_prezi
Wycliffe UK’s latest magazine provides a glimpse into the some of the individual people and projects.
wfl_winter2016
My (Peter’s) role has changed a little over the last 20 years.
In 1996 only a small proportion of Wycliffe supporters were online but it was becoming important to look to the future and build websites and communities to help raise people and funds.

In 2016 not only do most people in the developed world interact via the web in whole new ways on their phones but so do many people in the communities we work with.I recently read of a community of 60,000 people in a “very isolated area of the Northwest Region of Cameroon”.

It took me less than 30 seconds to find a facebook group for this community with 4,400 members.

I don’t know how many of the communities we work with have people online but I think we are now at the stage when more do than don’t.

Jennifer’s contribution has morphed over time too, although always centered around coaching an empowering others in their management and strategic leadership. Currently she is leading the HR thinking around the growth and development of staff, how the organisation can learn, develop and change more effectively and how staff supervisors can better provide guidance and support for their staff.

Working with Wycliffe means that we rely on financial support of churches and individuals (we’re required to raise 110% of of our income). Click here if you would like to donate or find out more.

New Bible Translation Statistics 2016: When is translation finished? November 19, 2016

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, Statistics.
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Some scripture is now available in 3,200+ languages and the number without anything started is falling. So when will the task of Bible Translation be finished?

progress-2016aMany people  think the publication of a full Bible marks the end of translation, but this is rarely the case.

In August, a press release announced, “Beginning in the summer of 2016, the text of the ESV Bible will remain unchanged” Fifteen years after it was first published this was a bold move not only implying that the text can no longer be improved but that the meanings of the words won’t change either. It was to have been unchanged “in the same way that the King James Version (KJV) has remained unchanged ever since the final KJV text was established almost 250 years ago (in 1769)” … 158 years and countless revisions after it was first published in 1611.

In September the publisher made another bold move and reversed the decision, acknowledging that it had been a mistake.

Unfinished

active-programs-progress-and-needs

for more numbers and more explanations see wycliffe.net/statistics

Of the 636 languages in which there is a translation of the complete Bible, 303 of them are known to have ongoing translation work of some kind. Some are being revised to cater for changes in language or improvements to style or translation, in others entirely new versions are being translated.

Some people oversimplify the ministry of Bible translation and link it to the return of Christ implying that when translation is finished in the last language Jesus will return. Some even imply that he won’t return until the Bible (or at least some of it) has been translated into all 7000+ known languages (including ones where no one speaks them as their main language any more).

The truth is languages will continue to change, revisions will be needed and translation will continue until Christ returns. But we do know that at least 1700 more language communities have needs right now for Bible translation to begin. Even then the goal is not printed text or online products but people encountering and engaging with the living God through scripture.

Celebrating 1000 (and 3000) languages with scripture August 23, 2016

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, Statistics.
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You Version have just sent an email declaring that “The Bible App is the first app in history to offer 1000-languages-email text content in 1,000 languages!” …which makes a good headline even for those not impressed by the fact that scripture is available in an app in so many languages.

I’d mentioned in an earlier post that Faith Comes By Hearing was approaching the same milestone of having audio scriptures available in 1000 languages.

I also said that 2016 would be the year that marked publication of at least a portion of scripture into the 3000th language. This week I may learn whether that has already happened. Of course publishing scripture doesn’t always mean people know it exists even for those that are online. Often announcements on the facebook pages of YouVersion and Faith Comes By Hearing are met by requests from people wanting to see scripture available in their language only to be told that it already is.

Translation and publishing are vital steps towards promotion, distribution, and engagement with scriptures.

Meanwhile, far too many people are still in that ‘small’ percentage of the world’s population who still have no published portions of the Bible in their language. Many have translation work in progress, some communities have decided for themselves that they can access what they need in another language, but many still don’t even know what they are missing

…and too many of us don’t appreciate what it is we have!

2015 Bible Translation Statistics #3 December 2, 2015

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, Statistics, wycliffe.
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2010-2015

The 2015 Bible Translation statistics are starting to be circulated. Former Wycliffe director Eddie Arthur blogged of the figures, “This is truly remarkable; a cause for celebration and thankfulness to God for making it all happen. It’s an immense privilege to be involved in this worldwide movement.”

I’d agree. Eddie goes on to say:

“I’ve just got a little niggling problem: to what extent can we say that people have access to God’s Word if they only have a book of Scripture or perhaps a New Testament …are we setting the bar too low? God gave us the whole Bible (including the difficult bits) for a reason, shouldn’t we be aiming to see it all translated into the languages of the world?”

Eddie has blogged on this previously, here and here with a valuable longer paper available here.

It’s a good niggle. Wycliffe’s new infographic spells it out “Having some scripture is not the end. Ongoing work is needed in thousands of languages.”

Eddie’s paper focuses on what bits of the Bible are important (all of them) rather than on which languages communities and agencies should focus on. (more on that in the infographic).

WordPress decided that readers of Eddies post would also like to see his post from 2009 when the number given for complete Bibles was 451 instead of the current 554. In the graphic above I’ve quoted numbers published for 2010. Caution should always be taken in comparing data from different years, and extreme caution taken in drawing graphs and making predictions about future progress, but one thing is clear – progress is being made and while not every project moves from portions to New Testaments to Bibles that certainly seems to be a trend.

Wycliffe has a vision for seeing translations started, and the start is just the beginning.

I’m privileged to have an ear to the ground as to what God is doing around the world in terms of Bible translation and a voice at the table in how some of us should talk about that. Here are a few challenges I flagged recently for when we talk about progress and remaining needs.

Definition of need – not as simple as “NT+ in 1887=no need”, “no scripture (in heritage language)=need”
Multilingualism – not as simple as “heart language” or nothing
Multiple dialects – not as simple as one product per language
Vision 2025 – to see translation begun where needed
Finished – There will be no more need for translation when languages stop changing, when each generation is the same as the last, when every one has all they need. Not ‘Christ won’t return until translation is done’ but ‘translation work won’t be done until Christ returns’

finished

2015 Bible Translation statistics #2 November 26, 2015

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, Statistics, wycliffe.
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Out of nearly 7,000 languages in use on the planet nearly 3,000 languages now have at least one book of the Bible, the rest don’t. So how many languages do you think still need scripture?

The answer involves a lot more than simple maths. (or ‘math’ for those speaking US English)

As promised in the last post Wycliffe Global Alliance now has a new info graphic of the latest statistics on Bible Translation progress. Click here for a version on prezi.com and check out your answer in the FAQs at wycliffe.net

2015stats_modified graphic

2015 Bible Translation Statistics: what they mean and what they don’t November 23, 2015

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, Statistics, wycliffe.
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The latest Bible translation statistics have been available for a few weeks on www.wycliffe.net/statistics . The progress is exciting, the need is still great. The numbers often don’t quite mean what people think they mean (which is why we encourage people to read the answers to the FAQs listed below).

Apparently Nov 23rd was the International Day of the Bible. I don’t know how many nations marked that in some way but I do know that 2015 has been the first year that when many people groups or nations (see a nice long article The Meaning of Ethne in Matthew 28:19 ) , have had new (or any) portions of the Bible available in their own language. Meanwhile many nations are still waiting for a clear, understandable translation of the Bible into the language they know best.

Here’s my own mash up of the info graphics on the site. (Wycliffe Global Alliance currently has a designer working on an improved version of this graphic)

BT2015infographic1400x1380

Click the graphic above to see the fine print a little larger. Read the detailed FAQs on wycliffe.net for more info on the following questions.

  1. Why don’t the numbers add up like I think they should?
  2. What is a scripture portion?
  3. Which will be the 3000th language with Scripture?
  4. Why does your Scripture count differ from the UBS Scripture count?
  5. How are languages defined and counted?
  6. How accurate are your population figures?
  7. How is translation need determined and counted?
  8. Why are some languages with existing Scripture listed as having translation needs? Why would Scripture need to be revised?
  9. Why aren’t all languages without a full Bible listed as needing translation?
  10. What is meant by the term “active language program”?
  11. What is Wycliffe’s approach or methodology toward Bible translation?
  12. Who is involved in Bible Translation?

There are lots of other questions that could be asked and a few that will covered in the coming months.

I’ll close with a few personal questions:

Do you know when was scripture first translated into your language? (and if you are still waiting do you know if translation has begun.)

When were the versions you use translated?

Are you working in, praying for and/or supporting the work of Bible translation?

Have you read anything encouraging or challenging in the Bible today?

Have you encouraged someone else recently with something from the Bible?

Click here to see what people shared on International Day of the Bible at

#biblecelebration

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