Old challenges, new techniques

By October 3, 2016

International (MNN) — It takes a lot of time, effort, and resources to translate biblical text into new languages. The process that puts a copy of God’s Word into a person’s hands, written in their own native tongue, is long and involved.

Imagine if there was an added challenge. On top of everything that goes into Bible translation, what if the native tongue has no written language?

Of course, there are ways to conquer this barrier, but they’ve always been complicated and lengthy processes. Now, according to Bruce Smith of Wycliffe Associates, things are changing.

“The traditional approach which would be to have someone go in, learn the language, convert it to a written form and create a written translation from that. What we’re talking about today is a tool that allows you to go from an audio source to an audio, oral translation with no intermediate written steps.”

Photo Courtesy Wycliffe Associates

(Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Associates)

With the new Bible Translation Recording Kit, the words of Scripture can be translated in drastically shorter periods of time. A speaker reads the text in one of the primary languages in the region, and the software automatically transforms it into a reading in the desired tongue.

From there, “they can adjust that audio translation and refine it to make sure it expresses the content of the verse exactly as it needs to,” says Smith.

“Then, they also go through and do quality checks on that oral draft, and do editorial upgrades so at the end of the day they can have a highly accurate, highly qualified final translation.”

The process isn’t an entirely new concept. In fact, it closely mirriors the MAST translation process, which uses large groups of native speakers to translate and check the texts. If MAST is any indication, the new Bible Translation Recording Kit will have a huge and immediate impact.

“MAST is about two years old now. We’re coming up on the second anniversary since the workshop that created it, and so far we’ve served more than 600 languages,” says Smith.

Photo Courtesy Wycliffe Associates

(Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Associates)

Sure enough, Bible Translation Recording Kits that have already been distributed have been a huge success. “Bible translations of New Testaments have already been completed in audio form with oral translations in less than a year in recent months,” remarks Smith.

But for all that, Wycliffe Associates can say from here in the States, “It’s really their testimony that bears weight. It’s not my testimony or of any outsider. It’s the insiders, the church leaders and the congregation that are using these Scriptures for the first time in their entire history, that those are the voices we really need to be listening to.”

So what’s next? Only time will tell, but one thing is certain: God’s not done yet, and He uses surprising methods to aid His people in the spread of the Gospel.

“Things have become possible that weren’t really possible in the past, and so all of those approaches to translations have been incredibly valuable. And this is just the latest approach that is helping languages that were still beyond the reach of the traditional methods to get Scripture sooner rather than later.”

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