Int’l (MNN) — A language dies every two weeks. Right now, about 2233 different languages have less than 1000 native speakers left. Wycliffe Bible Translators is tackling Scripture translation for some of those endangered languages and helping preserve them along the way.
The Gospel First
Andy Keener Wycliffe USA’s Executive Vice President for Global Partnerships, gives a clear definition of their mission. “Wycliffe’s focus is to see that God’s Word is available in each community, for each individual around the world in the language or multiple languages that serve them best.”
For them, the first order of business is the Great Commission. In that respect, the urgency of the task isn’t necessarily about language preservation. The goal is to offer the Good News in a language they can understand at a heart level.
Structure and Literacy
While the message of Christ is foremost, part of showing God’s love is demonstrating that He can relate to all people in their own language. To do that, Wycliffe USA brings structure to indigenous tongues that are missing it so they can provide better Gospel translations.
Keener explains, “We work with communities that have minority languages, so that language is no longer a barrier between them and the Gospel. While we do that, we also do work on the language alphabets, literacy, etc.”
Without an alphabet, many endangered languages are not passed on or included in formal education. These lesser-well-known languages remain in the background in situations where a main-stream language can be substituted. Eventually, the native tongue may not be used at all.
By providing written accounts of God’s Word, Wycliffe USA offers a formalized account of indigenous language that can be preserved.
Keener says, “And what happens when we’re working on Bible translation is we’ll tend to focus on developing things around the language to make it more useful in different aspects of life where perhaps people haven’t used it who are multilingual…
“And so what happens over time is people start to understand that ‘Hey my language is good for more than just talking around the house. Now I can understand God’s word in my language. I can pray. I can sing. Maybe my language is more valuable than I thought. ”
The Gift of Languages
Not only does this bring the Gospel to and help develop those languages, but it also confirms the value of diversity in the Kingdom of God.
“We want to also highlight the fact that by doing that in some of these minority small indigenous languages, we’re also able to help people understand the real value that is in their language. And many times, we see cultures say, ‘If I can communicate with God in my language than my language must be okay and I should pass it on to my children.’”
Languages are one of the unique tools God has given to record history and understand the world. A variety of tongues provides a richer understanding of humanity, history and the world.
Help Wycliffe bring God’s Word to new indigenous languages. Visit Wycliffe.org for more information.
Header photo courtesy of moyerphotos via Flickr.