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Bible translation project coming to a satisfying close

By May 11, 2015
(Photo courtesy Wycliffe USA)

(Photo courtesy Wycliffe USA)

Senegal (MNN) — Fourteen years ago in Senegal, Africa, a Bible translation project was started for the Bandial people group. Now, after much hard work, it’s coming to a satisfying close.

The project was financially supported by Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, but Wycliffe France missionaries helped with the logistics. Wolfgang Berndt was one of these missionaries.

“When we moved to Senegal, we had no idea in which language we would be working,” he says.

“There was a choice of about fourteen languages. And, quite soon it became clear by several criteria: we visited some projects and interviewed people about the attitude. It became clear that Bandial would be the project where the Lord wanted us to work.”

The Bandial People Group

According to Wycliffe, there are about 11,200 Bandial people in Senegal. Berndt says that religion is split into thirds. “A third call themselves Muslims, another third call themselves Catholics, and another third would say frankly, they are animists, which means the traditional religion.”

Berndt stresses many of the people didn’t know or follow ceremonies that were a part of their religion. “In reality, the people are almost 100% animist, and there are very few evangelical Christians–maybe about 50 altogether.”

After much work and much prayer, missionaries started seeing results. Berndt says, “[The Bandial New Testament is] very much used by the Catholics already. They appreciate the written translation.”

Pray that the translation will have a great affect and will be used widely.

The Project

The translation project itself wasn’t for the impatient.

Like many African languages, Bandial was only available in oral form. There was nothing written about the language.

Wycliffe missionaries started the long translation process by analyzing and language learning. “We started with writing the phonetic, the pronunciation with phonetic symbols, and very quickly we developed orthography, which was then changed a little bit later due to some special requests,” Berndt says.

From there, it took a lot of time to learn and sort out the language and grammar. “The Bible translation actually started in 2004, and finished in 2014,” Berndt adds.

In fact, the Joshua Project said the language was “Doomed to disappear.” After working with the group for years, Berndt says the Bandial language may be threatened because younger people go to town to study, where the national language, Wolof, is spoken. Once back at the village, they continue speaking it, and children tend to pick it up.

However, Berndt believes it’s unlikely the language will die out.

“There are very few people now who are able to pronounce a whole Bandial sentence without a Wolof or French lone word in it. The style is somewhat threatened. [But] the language will not die out, I think: not this one.”

The translation of the New Testament will likely help in its stabilization.

What’s Next?

The launch of the New Testament is being marked with a celebration thrown by Wycliffe on May 16.

“We pray that people are touched by God’s Word themselves and they see the contradictions with their syncretistic lifestyle,” Berndt says.

Pray with Wycliffe that the Bandial people will be touched by the Gospel, and that they will become strong believers in Christ.

Around the same time Wycliffe finished the New Testament translation, Faith Comes by Hearing suggested a partnership so the Bandial could listen to Scriptures in their heart language. Berndt says, “They have done actually the oral recording this year in February. So, they had people coming over from Ghana, based of course on our New Testament texts. And, it was done with the translators and some other key persons they chose afterwards.” The recordings have been finished but are being edited, adds Berndt, which will take several months.

Keep an eye on this page for updates!

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