Responding to the Need, Equipping the Locals

Language and Translation in the Mission of God 

Editor’s Note: From December 2020 to April 2021, Dr Bryan Harmelink, the Alliance’s Director for Collaboration, has conducted a Language & Translation in the Mission of God course for trainers in the Asia-Pacific Area. Twenty-one translators and consultants from Asia have completed the online course. Here is a report from Tony Chan, the Associate Director for Administration Services for the Area.

Jesus said the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Today, in order to reach language communities still waiting for God’s Word, the task is increasingly found in the hands of local Christians.

The Need

The task of Bible translation is increasingly found in the hands of local Christians. (A team of translators in the West Kalimantan is working on translating the Scriptures into their heart language. ) Photo: Marc Ewell

In the latest 2020 Scripture access statistics, 167 million people, speaking 2,014 languages, still need translation work to begin. Asia alone has 836 of these languages spoken by 141 million people. The great multitude that will stand before the throne before the Lamb are waiting for these tribes, people and languages (Rev. 7:9).

They need someone to bring God’s Word to them, yet many are either in remote locations or in areas closed to expatriates. We believe this is an opportunity for the local church to participate in the mission of God in reaching these minority language groups within their national borders with the gospel of Jesus Christ and making disciples by teaching the Word in the heart languages.

The Locals

Mission is now “From Everyone to Everywhere”. As the global church recognises that many people and communities do not have any of God’s Word in the language they understand best, many changes can be observed in the Bible Translation movement. Among these is empowering target language speakers to do translation:

  • They know the language, culture and context which takes an expat translator years to acquire.
  • The local community has a stronger sense of ownership of the translation and motivation to use it.
  • When translation does not depend on expat translators in learning the target language, the local community becomes the resource for translators.
  • For related language groups close by, a cluster project can be used to work on them in parallel.
  • Many smaller language groups are non-literate, so oral translation may be more appropriate.

The Course

The Basic Language & Translation in the Mission of God (LTMG) course seeks to train and prepare people — particularly national and local Christians, Bible translators, programme managers and project facilitators — to translate the Bible, building on their background knowledge and familiarity with local languages, cultural and social contexts. The LTMG curriculum is particularly helpful as a language community gets started on a translation project.

Train the Trainers: The First Round

In 2020, Wycliffe Asia-Pacific Area invited Dr Bryan Harmelink, the Alliance’s Director for Collaboration, to conduct Language & Translation in the Mission of God for Trainers (LTMG-T) to a group of translators and consultants from Asia. The course was conducted over Zoom over five months. Lectures were supported by notes and reading references, group discussions and presentations, and a final term paper. Early in 2021, the cohort met again for three days of review, Q&A and introduction to pedagogy for adults. A total of 21 people from East Asia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Taiwan received certificates of completion.

Dr Bryan Harmelink is the key training of LTMG course. Photo: Ling Lam

Next Steps

As an ongoing outcome, teams have been formed around language groups: Chinese, English, Filipino and Indonesian. Each will work on contextualising the materials and develop the LTMG curriculum in their respective languages, incorporating it into existing training programmes, as well as preparing presentations for churches as introduction to Bible translation.

Story: Tony Chan
Associate Director for Administration Services
Wycliffe Global Alliance Asia-Pacific

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