Technical Tools To Equip Bible Translators

The Bible translation office in Bunia

Sign outside the Bunia Bible translation office.

Here in Congo, linguists serving with SIL International (a field partner of Wycliffe Bible Translators) are working with local churches to promote Bible translation, literacy, Scripture use, and local language development. However, these Western missionaries aren’t the ones doing the actual translation work. Rather, they are training and facilitating the work of Congolese translators.

“My department specifically supports the Université Shalom de Bunia’s Bible Translation degree program by focusing on writing systems for languages represented by current and prospective students in that program,” said Kent Rasmussen, Linguistics Consultant. “We also work with other Congolese who show themselves willing and available for this work. As was said in our Resolution for Sustainable Movement at our last international conference, ‘We want to position SIL in each context for contribution to sustainable, locally driven movements for Bible translation and language development.’”

The Bible translation office in Bunia is just one of the many clients who use MAF’s across-town wireless network to access the Internet. I’ve also had a chance to help them out with a variety of IT issues. For this team, Internet access and IT support mean more than just being able to check email and browse the web.

“IT is necessary for every phase of our work, from administration and planning to teaching and translating,” said MaryAnne Augustin, head of the Language Research and Development Department. “Owen has stepped in a few times to trouble-shoot our office network, individual computers, and our battery back-up system. Because of our staffing shortage, he’s almost the only locally available IT support we have.”

Congo Bible Translation Team

The Tembo translation team performs translation checks.

As SIL continues to train and develop local linguists, the need for technology will continue to grow. In the past, translation was either done by a single highly trained linguist, assisted by one or two members of the community, or with large numbers of community members using pencil and paper. This is not the case today: on today’s mission field, IT has become a game changer that’s allowing translation teams to spread God’s word more quickly and effectively.

“We are developing ways of working with newer tools, which both lower the bar of entrance to computer use, but also allow a broader collaboration for workers in a single project,” said Rasmussen. “The result is that each team member can contribute from his place of work, see other team members’ contributions, and have a continually up-to-date copy of all project files. This is particularly important as teams become geographically separated… All of these new tools involve heavy correspondence and collaboration with developers in other countries, which would not be possible without the MAF internet connection.”

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