Congo-Kinshasa (MNN) —
Swahili is fast becoming the common trade language used in Africa, but there
are many areas where the tribal language is still spoken exclusively in the villages.
That's true of the Wazimba tribe near Kipaka in the
Democratic Republic of Congo. There are
189,000 people who speak Kizimba, but there's still not much in the way of
written Scripture. Sam Vinton with Grace Ministries
International says that's because "the tribal dialect, Kizimba,
has never been written or used for
translation. People speak Swahili."
Years ago, the GMI team dreamed of getting a translation
ready, but didn't have a trained linguist. That's changed now, explains Vinton. "We have the opportunity [to work with] a Wycliffe Bible
Translator–a consultant who is trained in that area. She's going to be spending a month writing
the alphabet, working with people, trying to see if putting Scripture
into that language would be something that would be helpful for that area."
Although the people use the standardized Latin alphabet, the
written language can be very complicated. Many of the tribal languages are tonal, which means a linguist has to work
with the speakers to figure out the combination of letters that will indicate
the right tone for a particular word.
Constance Kutsch Lojenga, a Dutch linguistic consultant serving with
Wycliffe Bible Translators/SIL, is
holding the seminars to choose the group she will work with. "They
will choose pastors–probably some of the older men and women from the village,
form a team, try and see exactly the usage of the language, and evaluate
whether or not Kizimba is still spoken as a heart language."
This is an important first step toward a possible Bible
translation project. "From there, they can take a look and start writing
certain verses, or translating, or doing certain projects for people to read
and to see the level of understanding compared to using Swahili."
Having the Scripture in a heart language helps with
comprehension, too. Vinton says, "The whole problem we're facing in many of our
mission fields is that we've used either trade languages, or in some cases, French
Comprehension is critical to evangelism projects. There's a strong Muslim influence in the
region. Even as Lojenga gets started
with the project, GMI is sending a team of 11 evangelists recently trained
by Fred Vinton and a Congolese pastor into several smaller tribal villages.
Time is of the essence.
"Pray that as Lojenga works with the people, she'll be able to arrive at a
place where they find out how much better these people are able to grasp the
truth of Scriptures."