Language Issues

How the Bible can be Relevant in all Languages and Cultures
Authors: Harriet Hill, Margaret Hill
Published by: Piquant (2008)

"Clear, simple and readable - very practical, fully supported with further reading ... exactly the kind of thing that is needed."
Chris Wright, Langham Partnership

A tried and tested resource that encourages meaningful Bible use in multi-lingual contexts through both written and oral media.

Individual chapters can be used as a standalone interactive workshop in church or mission contexts. Chapters (with further reading) are also appropriate as a text for graduate studies. Includes activities, assignments, further reading resources and links for useful websites.

Also available as an e-book for Kindle.  [more...]

Como tornar a Bíblia relevante para todas as línguas e culturas
Authors: Harriet Hill, Margaret Hill
Published by: Vida Nova (2010)

This is the Brazilian Portuguese version of the book Translating the Bible into Action by Harriet Hill and Margaret Hill.

A tried and tested resource that encourages meaningful Bible use in multi-lingual contexts through both written and oral media. Includes activities, assignments, further reading resources and links to useful websites.

This version has two extra chapters in addition to those found in the English version - "Addressing human concerns: Alcohol abuse", and "Sharing your faith with animists".  [more...]

Enjeux et défis pour l'Afrique francophone
Author: Michel Kenmogne
Published by: Editions CLE, Yaoundé / Wycliffe International, Nairobi (2009)

This book - 'Bible Translation and the Church: Issues and challenges for Francophone Africa' - was written as part of the Francophone Initiative in collaboration with CITAF (Conseil des Institutions Théologiques d’Afrique Francophone) - a consortium of evangelical theological institutions in Africa.

The aim is to introduce into the programme of every theological college a course on the importance of Bible translation and the role of local languages in the mission of the church.

The chapters are divided into five main sections:

  1. Pourquoi traduire la Bible dans les langues locales? (Why translate the Bible into local languages?)
  2. L'histoire de la traduction de la Bible depuis Néhémie jusqu'à nos jours (The history of Bible translation from Nehemiah to today)
  3. Théologie et traduction de la Bible (Theology and Bible translation)
  4. Traduction de la Bible: contexte, structures et méthodes (Bible translation: context, structures and methods)
  5. Bible et héritage colonial francophone (The Bible and the colonial heritage)
  [more...]
Manuel pour faire un bon usage de la Bible dans chaque langue et culture
Authors: Harriet Hill, Margaret Hill
Published by: Presses Bibliques Africaines (2011)

"Ce manuel est un guide efficace pour une bonne préparation à l'étude biblique, à la méditation, à la prédication intégrant les réalitiés culturelles de chaque peuple."

This is the French version of the book Translating the Bible into Action by Harriet Hill and Margaret Hill. It is also available in Portuguese.

The French version can be obtained from Wycliffe Benin in Cotonou or from the SU department of SIL in Nairobi.  [more...]

Author: David L Payne

One of the major obstacles for the acceptance of an idiomatic translation of the Scriptures into a vernacular language where there is some form of established church is that often there is a strong veneration of a translation of the Scriptures in the national language.

In the translation project for the Asheninka language of Peru, the team was faced with resistance to the idiomatic translation in the vernacular because of a strong attachment to an old Spanish translation. To assuage this resistance, they attempted to teach translation principles to the Asheninka lay pastors and to discuss with them the benefits of idiomatic translation, but both activities met with little success. However, a change of attitude came through a series of seminars that educated them about the source of the venerated Spanish version and the kinds of adjustments that were made in translating it from Greek to Spanish.  [more...]

Author: Warren Glover

Arguments against a diglot version focus on matters of cost, production time, and difficulty, and bulkiness versus ease of handling. Arguments for the diglot are mostly in the area of factors which will promote the use of the publication.

The author discusses the benefits and problems of publishing local language translations alongside national language in a diglot format. Taking the example of the language he worked with, Glover explains the reason they decided to publish the New Testament as a diglot edition: to increase the acceptability and usefulness of the translation. He also mentions several disadvantages, such as increased costs and publication time, which in this specific situation were thought to be outweighed by the benefits.  [more...]

A review of ‘Managing linguistic diversity in the church’
Author: Katherine O'Donnell

Reflections on a research paper by Anicka Fast, relevant for those working on Bible translation in multilingual church contexts:

Fast, Anicka 2009. Managing linguistic diversity in the church: language ideological contestation within a shared moral framework in south-western Burkina Faso. Language Documentation and Description, Vol 6, 161-212.

In this review, Katherine O'Donnell reflects on Fast's research as she looks at the perceptions held by missionaries, church leaders and villagers on Mother Tongue (MT) use in church. Fast studied south west Burkina Faso in an area with lots of languages and lots of multilingualism. Many people speak Jula, a Language of Wider Communication (LWC), and some speak French (the official LWC). This situation resembles that in many of the countries where Bible translation is in progress, where there might also be high multilingualism with a LWC and MTs.  [more...]

Author: Harriet Hill
Published by: International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 30:2 (Apr 2006)

Bible translators realized that translated Scriptures sitting in warehouses fell short of their goal. Their real goal was that receptors use these Scriptures to draw closer to God. UBS refers to this goal as Scripture engagement; SIL and Wycliffe refer to it as Scripture use. Global sociolinguistic factors in fact militate against vernacular languages, making the use of mother-tongue Scriptures the premier challenge for Bible translation in the twenty-first century.

Harriet Hill provides a historical overview of progress in Bible translation, focusing especially on the challenges faced by translators in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The article covers topics such as how methods have improved over the years, the effects of colonisation and modernisation on vernacular languages, and the spread of Christianity by diffusion or incarnation.  [more...]

Author: John Ommani Luchivia

Fuller Graduate Schools, School of Intercultural Studies Doctor of Intercultural Studies dissertation (2012)

Abstract:
This dissertation explores the missiological opportunities, challenges and implications of growing multilingualism among people who are fluent in two or more languages. I look at the cognitive value of language and how languages shape people’s world views. World views influence peoples’ perceptions and way of processing and understand information. People’s beliefs are reflected in their character and relationships in the community. Christians want to promote positive community relations in order for people to participate in the mission of God within their community.

I survey relevant literature on the role of language and its value, how language fits the plan of God, and its place in His mission to different peoples. I then survey current trends of language use and growing multilingualism, and the language practices within Kenya. I therefore focus on research factors behind language choice and use.

Methodologically, I use focus groups, participant observation, and personal interviews in four different socio-linguistic contexts in four different Christian denominations. I thematically analyse and code the data to establish my findings. The findings point to the factors that influence language choice.

Factors that determine choice of language go beyond the level of fluency in reading, speaking or understanding. These factors involve attitudes that go very deep in both positive and negative ways. Additionally, people’s language choices are influenced by other social factors. The factors include desire to communicate, social cultural pressure, economic advancement, political correctness, reading materials availability, leadership perception on language, institutional policy, religious values and proficiency in any given language. These factors were consistently displayed in all four research locations enabling me to demonstrate reliability of the data and validity of the findings.

Understanding how these factors influence people will assist Christians who desire to become good witnesses. To be witnesses, people need to be empowered. For purpose of language choice, all languages should be viewed as being appropriate for ministry. Language is a platform for effective participant contextualisation among the people of God. Through their actions and pronouncements people are able to utilize the multilingual environment of Kenya to better engage in mission and spread God’s Word.

-- for more information about this dissertation, please contact the author at john_ommaniatsil [dot] org  [more...]

Author: Edna Headland

"When the Scriptures are available in the mother tongue, students will use them if encouraged to do so by the staff of the training institutions. Professors may not understand the languages their students are working in and they may find this to be challenging, but the results are well worth the challenge."

Many Bible Schools function in the majority language of the country. For students from minority language groups, this may result in a superficial understanding of Scripture. How can Bible schools help them study Scripture in their own language so that they attain the fluency in reading and preaching they will need to minister effectively among their people? This article presents an approach which has been used at a Bible Institute in Colombia with 13 languages.  [more...]