Project to Translate Bible Into Every Living Language Gets $50 Million Donation

November 29, 2008 at 6:40 am Leave a comment

A new effort to translate the Bible into every living language kicked off Saturday with the help of a $50 million anonymous gift to the Orlando-based Wycliffe USA, the world’s largest Bible-translation company.

The goal of Wycliffe’s Last Languages Campaign is to translate the Bible for all of the 2,400 languages that do not have one. Those represent about one-third of all languages spoken and include nearly 200 million people, mostly in three regions: Central Africa, northern India-southern China, and Indonesia-Papua New Guinea.
Worldwide, the nonprofit Bible-translation company has more than 6,400 people working in 93 countries. In 1999, about 1,500 languages had translations of the Bible. That number since has more than doubled to 4,000.
The translations are expected to take at least 17 years to complete.
Robert Creson, president of Wycliffe, would identify the cash donor only as someone with a longtime interest in biblical translation and the positive effects it can have on communities that do not have written languages.
“It’s a huge encouragement and a huge investment of faith,” he said.
Samuel Mubbala, a Ugandan translator working on a Bible in his native language, knows how difficult the task can be.
Mubbala grew up speaking a nonwritten language called Lugwere that is used by about 500,000 people. He helped create an alphabet for it a few years ago and then started translating Scripture into the newly written language.
Although the Bible had been translated into a related Ugandan language, that version did not seem to speak to him intimately enough. “You’re missing part of the message if it’s not in the mother tongue,” Mubbala said.
For example, he said, in one of the written languages of Uganda the word “believe” has three shades of meaning: accepting, agreeing and religious faith.
But in his native language, “belief” referred only to agreeing and accepting. So when some speakers of Lugwere heard their salvation could be ensured if they believed and were baptized, they agreed to it. But they didn’t understand that baptism was founded on faith in Jesus Christ.
Mubbala and others had to come up with a new linguistic construction that Lugwere speakers understood as something resembling “to trust in God or Christ as true.”
Wycliffe’s 200-acre campus in Orlando employs about 285 workers. The company was founded in 1942 by U.S. missionary Cameron Townsend. The company was named for John Wycliffe, who initiated the first English translation of the Bible in the 14th century.
Source: Seattle Times
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