The Unwritten Word of God: Bible Translation Goes Mouth to Mouth
Image: Courtesy of Wycliffe Associates

Currently almost 1,800 living languages, spoken by about 165 million people, lack even a partial Bible translation, according to the Wycliffe Global Alliance.

These languages remain short on Scripture for a reason, said Robin Green, project manager at Faith Comes By Hearing (FCBH): “They’re the more difficult ones.” Many of the languages aren’t written and lack even an alphabet.

That makes Green’s project perfect for them.

For more than two years, Green—who wrote a 2007 master’s thesis on how to solve this problem—and her team have been developing Render. The software allows Bible translation to be completely oral, and to be undertaken by translators who are illiterate. Traditionally, translation has required a written version to bridge even two oral cultures.

The software has been developed in partnership with Pioneer Bible Translators (PBT) and the Seed Company. Its first project will begin in Brazil this June.

Render allows a local translator to listen to the Bible in a major language spoken nearby and record a new spoken translation, saving a translator from having to first create an alphabet, teach the community literacy, and write down the translated Bible.

“It’s an idea whose time has come,” said PBT president Greg Pruett. “[Render] is uniquely designed for the conditions that exist in the last languages we’re going to be working on.”

Render is now possible for two reasons, he said. The first is a recent FCBH project to record dramatized Scripture in more than 900 languages. “In most cases, minority languages exist in a context where one or two New Testaments are already done nearby.”

The second ingredient is a bilingual speaker ...

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The Unwritten Word of God: Bible Translation Goes Mouth to Mouth
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May 2016

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