Bible translation work advancing

Wycliffe Associates, a global organization that empowers national Bible translators around the world, has successfully completed a pilot program with mother-tongue translators in Asia who were able to draft 48 percent of the New Testament in their language in two weeks.

The group of Christians, who are in the minority in their nation and suffer ongoing persecution by members of the majority religion, came together for the first time in late 2014 as part of a new translation and training program from Wycliffe Associates called MAST (Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation).

“The whole translation strategy is based on learning principles that have been tested and proven over a long period of time in a wide range of educational settings,” said Bruce Smith, president and CEO of Wycliffe Associates. “Rather than a single team translating their way through the Scriptures sequentially, multiple teams of national translators, church checkers, and certified translation consultants translate Scripture portions simultaneously, working in parallel,” continues Smith.

Thirteen national translators were divided into teams of four, and each team was assigned one of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Next, each team member was assigned a portion of the book. The translators worked 12-hour days and completed approximately 34 verses each day, drafting during the mornings and using a five-step process to check the verses in the afternoons and evenings.

The result was that by the end of two weeks, the group had completed the drafting and checking process for Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and 1 and 2 Timothy, representing approximately 48 percent of the New Testament. There was no decrease in the quality of the translation compared to traditional translation methods, which can take 25 to 30 years for completion of a New Testament.

The group hopes to print their first New Testament and also record it in audio by summer, 2015. In the Asian nation where these translators live, there are an estimated 30 to 40 more languages without any of the Bible.

“This is not the end of the story for either the [group of 13 translators] or for the parallel translation strategy. We have a rapidly expanding number of partners and languages who want to test this strategy as soon as is practical,” says Smith. Twenty-five other groups have asked Wycliffe Associates to facilitate the MAST strategy for their languages, and Wycliffe Associates has made plans to begin additional translations in 2015 using the MAST program.