Virtual Bible translation tools: a solution for projects facing COVID-19 setbacks

By August 19, 2020
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International (MNN) — As the pandemic brings Bible translation efforts to a halt around the world, Wycliffe Associates is offering online workshops and supporting virtual collaboration wherever possible.

Overcoming Obstacles

Before projects can begin, translators need to be trained in Wycliffe Associates’ MAST program (Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation), a collaborative, eight-step method that helps produce accurate translations more quickly.

Paula Oestreich of Wycliffe Associates says these training workshops typically happen in person. However, with travel restrictions from the pandemic, that clearly isn’t an option. Instead, Wycliffe Associates has shifted to virtual workshops, which Oestreich says come with their own obstacles.

“The biggest challenge by far would be the internet connection and adequate technology,” she says. “Can they stay on a website for the entire meeting and be able to have a functioning computer? Those are the two biggest issues that we have.”

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(Photo courtesy of Aleks Marinkovic via Unsplash)

Wycliffe Associates provides laptops and pays internet fees for translators that need access, and Oestreich says Wycliffe Associates has increased their use of virtual MAST, or V-MAST, which allows translation teams to collaborate even if they can’t work in person.

“It is basically like working on a website for the translators,” Oestreich explains. “It is a collaboration tool. Whether they’re in the same room, or in different rooms, different cities, even different countries, they can translate the Bible together, working through the four drafting steps, and then working through the four checking steps together, no matter where they are in the world.”

Finding Courage and Success

V-MAST has encryption in place to try to protect individuals who could face persecution, though it’s still far from ideal for dangerous areas. However, for some translators, it’s worth the risk.

“I was talking to someone in the Middle East, and they want to start [using] V-MAST,” Oestreich says. “They said, ‘well, it’s not a country where it’s illegal to be a Christian,’ but they could face persecution. They said, ‘we want the Bible in our language, so this is what we want to do anyway.’ Who are we to say that they can’t do that?”

Oestreich says a translation group in Russia has found particular success with V-MAST. Though many people might not think of Russia as a nation with a variety of languages, several groups in the country don’t have the Bible in their mother tongue. However, with the help of V-MAST, that will hopefully change soon.

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(Photo courtesy of Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash)

“Our Udmurt group in Russia [has] a group of 32 translators. Half of them are working on paper and pen. They use the input feature in V-MAST so [their work] can be online. The other half of the group is working through the eight steps online using V-MAST, so all of their content ends up in the same place. They’ve gotten nine books done [during] COVID, and they’re currently working on six more as a group,” Oestreich says.

This translation group hopes to finish their project by the end of the year, which would mean translating the New Testament in nine months or less. Fortunately, this group is incredibility motivated to provide their people with Scripture in their mother tongue.

Support Bible Translators Worldwide

As the Udmurt and many other groups continue their work, Oestreich describes a few ways you can help.

“It would help to get the word out that V-MAST actually exists as a tool and that people could use it,” she says.

You can help Bible translators get access to the resources they need by donating here. Translators around the world also need your prayer support, as many face unrest, persecution, and more while they translate God’s Word for their people. Visit Wycliffe Associates’ site here to learn more about how you can pray for these brave men and women.



Header image courtesy of  Aaron Burden via Unsplash

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