International (MNN) – There are more than 6,900 languages spoken around the world today, with full translation of the Bible in only 531 of those, but Wycliffe Associates plans to close that gap significantly in 2016.
“We’re going to see more than double the number of new Translation Starts around the world. We’re anticipating more than 500 new Bible translations to begin during the coming year,” said Wycliffe Associates President and CEO Bruce Smith.
This expectation comes despite opposition in many of the countries where Wycliffe Associates is working. Smith says the rate of translation is increasing considerably, primarily due to a new translation method and “out-of-the-box” tools.
MAST makes for quick work
Mobile Assistance Supporting Translation (MAST) is a new program revolving around a single team of national translators who can draft and check an entire New Testament translation in record time, Smith said. Indigenous translators work in parallel, translating different passages of the same book of the Bible. When a translator hits a bump, he has the benefit of seeing the work done by a peer on a similar section of Scripture.
“The workers help each other, check each other’s work, get community input—and the overall effort is lightning fast by Bible translation standards,” Smith said. He estimates that a 26-member team of national translators can produce a New Testament translation in less than a year.
Using MAST, Wycliffe Associates will begin 500 new translation projects in 2016.
Wycliffe began using MAST in 2014, with 235 groups employing it around the world.
BTAK: a Bible-translation-kit in a box
The new kit used by Wycliffe Associates is a backpack with translation tools. It is designed to make a once-stationary chore — mobile. Bible Translation Acceleration Kits (BTAKs) are currently being used in 516 languages. Introduced in 2014, the BTAKs are utilized in 41 different countries.
Each kit contains a small netbook computer, a satellite communication terminal, a solar battery charger and battery, and a secondary power supply. The BTAKs are kept portable because translators – especially Christian nationals – are often in danger of assault, arrest, or theft of their equipment and seizure of their work. With the BTAKs, translators can pick up and move at a moment’s notice.
In India and the Middle East, where translators have been murdered for spreading the Gospel, such mobility could save lives.
A Bible, free to all
Not all barriers to translation are as severe as persecution and murder, but they are barriers just the same. Wycliffe Associates and unfoldingWord Project just launched a copyright-free Bible translation, and it’s expected to help speed the work of translation.
The Unlocked Literal Bible contains both Old and New Testaments. It was finished in October by the unfoldingWord editorial board, according to Smith. With it, churches will gain access to the Bible in members’ mother tongue. Churches actually become active in the translation process through the MAST process, Smith said.
Despite ground-breaking technology, all the work, and hours of prayer, Smith says a lot of :unknowns” remain when translators are sent into remote areas to develop a Bible in a new language.
Funding is needed. People are needed. Most importantly, prayer for God’s guidance is needed.