When you aspire to make disciples of all nations, you must prepare to work among people who cannot read and leave them with what they need to carry on the work. The story4all podcast provided a testimony and summary of one worker’s approach in Southeast Asia that considers orality, written translation and church planting. If you’re preparing your strategy now, think about how to bring these together.
Posts tagged # Bible translation
I just read The Multilingual God by Steve Fortosis. It’s a compendium of Bible translation fascinations, a popular-level work for those interested in the exotic experiences of translators and their rewards.
I benefitted most from the final chapters which discussed hard sayings in the Bible (different for each culture!), the need for humor when translating, and the implications of divine inspiration on Bible translation philosophy.
This book can help you appreciate the difficulties of the task but don’t let fascination with it distance you from personal, prayerful involvement. If you learn anything from a work like this it is that problems arise when translators work alone and solutions arise when we involve others.
The first thing that happened in the life of the church was translation. On the day of Pentecost, God’s powerful wind swept through Jesus’s followers, filling them, like the sails of a great oceangoing sailing ship, so that they could take God’s good news to the ends of the earth. And they found themselves speaking other languages, so that everyone in the crowd could understand. …
So, right from the start, they translated. Sometimes it happened, as at Pentecost, by the direct action of the holy spirit. Mostly, though it was through people eagerly turning the message into other languages.
—N. T. Wright, preface to The Kingdom New Testament
Many minority languages are endangered. When are they a strategic priority?
We’ve been learning the trade language, or lingua franca, of the eastern Himalayas. Learning the trade language is important not only for getting around and shopping in the market but also for catalyzing work across the area. We interact with speakers of minority languages through a language of wider communication (LWC) just as they do whenever they are away from their community. We can work widely in a trade language but not always deeply. We’re trying to communicate spiritual things to a person’s heart through language meant for business.
“Heart language” is an expression to describe the language that matters most to a person. It’s a useful refrain of Bible translation. But for our purposes it might better be called “home language.” Sociolinguists observe that this one factor more than any other is what makes a language vital: that it’s spoken at home, by parents to children. It is, in fact, a mother tongue.
Consider also that our church planting work centers around the home. From “person of peace” (see Luke 10) to house churches, we look for homes that welcome God’s message and messengers. Many missionaries use the Greek word for ‘household,’ oikos, to emphasize the significance of these homes in the biblical accounts and in their strategies.
We train the members of this kind of home to spread the good news across its network of relationships. We look for opportunities to get the message into the language of the home, even if we ourselves don’t speak it. Every community already has communication paths and patterns to bring outside news in.
It may not be strategic for outsiders to learn minority languages (though it shouldn’t be beneath us). It’s not even a possible task for one person or team — there are at least thirty spoken in our vicinity. But it is a priority to make room in our strategies for the good news to get from trade languages into “home languages.” For both Bible translation and church planting, the home is at the heart of our concern.
Christianity is a translated religion without a revealed language. The issue is not whether Christians translated their Scripture well or willingly, but that without translation there would be no Christianity or Christians. Translation is the church’s birthmark as well as its missionary benchmark: the church would be unrecognizable or unsustainable without it.
—Lamin Sanneh, Whose Religion Is Christianity? (p. 97), as quoted by David Frank in “Reflections on the nature of Bible Translation”.