Bible Translation and Literacy
It's easy to think of Bible translation as something that can stand alone and easily be successful. Even as we were joining Wycliffe, it was hard for me to think of what other work might have to be done to prepare the way for translation. Let's just get the Bible in their language and let it work!
But Bible translation can't stand alone. It takes a team of people and loads of work to make it successful in a variety of contexts. Possibly the closest partner to translation work is literacy within the community. For many people that are in the midst of Bible translation, the written form of their language has just been developed or is still being introduced. In fact, there are still around 3,100 languages worldwide that have no writing system. So when the Bible is introduced, it is often the first example of written text that people have in their own language!
Last year, when we visited some of the work being done in Cote d'Ivoire, we got to see this hand-in-hand work of Bible translation and literacy. For the translators in the village of Yaou, their workspace doubles as a community literacy classroom! In this picture, the writing you can see on the whiteboard is from the most recent reading and literacy lessons that took place in their language of Aburré.
One translator on this project I think put it best:
"Our goal is that when we finish the translation of the Bible, our people will be able to read it!"
And that just makes so much sense! That's why we have Literacy Specialists that can help with this process. That's why we have Linguists that can analyze these languages and help develop a written form. That's why we have Scripture Engagement members that work to get resources to help people study the new Bible that they have in their hands.
We say it often, but it truly takes a team to get this work done.
Take some time to watch this video of the partnership between Bible translation and literacy. This project is from Senegal, a French-speaking country in West Africa!