For several years, a few mission organizations have been collaborating together to create some software that could be used to make oral Bible translation happen. Render is now being trialed in several parts of the world to see how the process works. Since all parts of the process are done orally – translation, team checking and revision, consultant checking, and recording, it is ideal for communities that operate predominantly in an oral realm. As the SPES project has been watching Render develop over the last couple years, we have become very excited about the possibilities that it holds for small language groups in the East Sepik and Sandaun provinces of Papua New Guinea.
However, because Bible translation has been written, rather than oral, almost exclusively for decades, this new approach presents its own challenges. Where will we find people who can come and help us run the Oral Bible Translation (OBT) workshops? Ideally, these would be people who would feel comfortable switching from a written to an oral process or have received training in oral translation. Could it be you or someone you know?
Our current staff does not have all the skill sets needed to lead the training. We continue to pray and trust that God will lead people to us that have the needed skills to help Sepik language groups get God’s Word in a way that clearly speaks to them. A few of these roles are crucial and without people to fill them, OBT cannot move forward. The team in Wewak feels strongly that this is a natural next step for language groups who have already completed their Oral Bible Storytelling workshops. Language groups continue to call and ask when they can begin the next step of translation work. It is a struggle for us to not be able to tell them when the next steps will happen.
Each morning, the Bible passage to be translated will be discussed during devotions. Someone is needed who can help give a good understanding of what is being discussed in the passage from an exegetical perspective. They would need to be able to check specific key terms and help the teams make sure they are translating those key components in an accurate and natural manner.
Another person is needed who can help the teams understand a bit of how their language works linguistically. This is not as in-depth as it would be in a written setting. Some of the details are not needed in the oral realm, like consistency of spelling and punctuation, since it is all recorded rather than written. However, understanding some of how the grammar works, so that the passage can be translated naturally, rather than word-for-word from another translation will help the teams have translation that can be easily understood.
One translation consultant is needed for each language group. In the initial pilot project, the current plan is to include three language groups. The consultants would take the scripture portions that have been translated and go through them with the team to check for consistency of key terms, making sure nothing has been introduced that is not true to the Bible and to make sure that key items have not been omitted. As they go through each passage, changes that are needed will be noted and fixed before the final recording is released for the communities to use.
Will you pray with us that God will provide the people needed to move this work forward? If you or someone you know might be interested, please contact us by email or at our Facebook page.
1 Report from the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization Issue Group “Making Disciples of Oral Learners”, page 4.