English speakers: Bible translators need you

By February 20, 2013

International (WAS/MNN) — Put yourself in this situation: you really want to help translate the Bible in your language. You have the literacy skills necessary to do this in your own language.

However, once you get into linguistic training, you discover everything you're learning and all the commentaries and other books you reference are in a whole new language that you don't know. What do you do?

This was precisely the scenario that faced many Bible translators not long ago, and one that had the potential of discouraging new people from the field.

Wycliffe Associates President/CEO Bruce Smith explains, "Our first experience with this was actually working with some students in South Korea who were going through linguistics training, and who, we learned, were failing their linguistics training because they didn't have adequate English competency."

Smith says because the English language influences every Scripture translation project, translators must know English to conduct checks of back translations to ensure the accuracy of Scripture translations. "We could provide a basic level of English competency to them in a very short period of time that would enable them to succeed in their studies. We've now duplicated this with partners all over the world."

Obviously, something needed to be done. Wycliffe Associates started looking for volunteers to teach English to these translation teams. But, they ran into some preconceived notions with that, too. "When most people think of Bible translation, they think the first skill you have to have is a foreign language competency. Obviously that helps, but the working language within translation teams is English."

The reality is that it takes five to seven years of English language learning to gain academic competence in English. And then: God. Smith says God sent the right person along to head up the whole thing. Dan Kramer has long experience in this area, and he's currently leading education services.

As a result, says Smith, "The demand has grown so dramatically, that what we've also decided to do is put a lot of these tools and resources on the Web. [We want] to be able to deliver English language assessments and English language training through the internet so that people can access it 24-hours a day, from any location."

That decision opened more doors. Options will hopefully encourage more volunteers. Smith adds, "People can participate either personally, as part of a team to travel to a location to meet with some of these other translators that are in the education process, or they can even participate from home with students that are trying to hone their English language skills." Wycliffe Associates currently has English Language Learning programs underway in 18 countries located in Central and South America, Africa, and Asia.

Volunteers–who do not need to be professional teachers–instruct students from a proven curriculum. Volunteers at home can get involved by using the Internet to communicate with a translator twice each week, for 40 weeks, to enhance his or her English, or by e-mailing a translator once per week for 40 weeks to help improve the translator's English skills.

It's an encouraging process. Smith notes that "both the verbal skills and the literary skills are important because, as I said, the reference materials are all in writing and in English. The speaking skill and reading skills are actually different skill sets."

For those who've had literacy training in a local community, there's a place for you, too, Smith adds. "We definitely are interested in people who have literacy skills, as well as people who enjoy talking and being conversational. [Also consider becoming] a prayer partner and using that as a way to encourage these team members around the world in their skills."

Wycliffe Associates involves people in accelerating the work of Bible translation through their time, talents, and treasure. Because millions of people around the world are still waiting to read the Scriptures in the language of their heart, Wycliffe Associates is working as quickly as they can to translate every verse of the Bible into every tongue to change every heart.

The organization partners with nationals, mother-tongue translators, staff, volunteers, and supporters to direct and fund these efforts, as well as provide logistics, networking, and technical support. Through a growing global network, Wycliffe Associates is striving to overcome local limitations of time and resources to achieve the goal of beginning the translation of God's Word in every remaining language that needs it by 2025.

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