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A new year & a new series

The process of translating the Bible, or even one book of the Bible, is HUGE. We all know that. There are many steps to that process, and in the next few issues of CoordN8, we will introduce these steps and give you an insight into what our translators and advisors are actually doing.

In this issue, we will give you the “Big Picture”.  As you read about Scripture projects around the regions, you can picture where the workers are up to in this process.  Here, we expand a little on Steps 1 & 2, as preface to the translation task, which begins with drafting.

Step 1: Dreams: A language group, or some within the group, dream of having the Bible in their own language.

Step 2: Choosing a front translation: A front translation is the version of the Bible that is used to translate from. Originally, most of the New Testament was written in Greek, the lingua franca of New Testament times. Very few, if any, Indigenous people know Greek, so they wouldn’t be able to translate from it. So what can we use instead? There are careful criteria for choosing a front translation. First, it must be a language that the translator knows well. Secondly, it must be a translation that is true to the meaning of the original Greek. That means the translation needs to have been thoroughly checked for accuracy, by an internationally recognised consultant.  In other words, the Front Translation must have gone through all the steps listed below.

Step 3: Drafting and keyboarding the translation

Step 4: Team revision

Step 5: Advisor check

Step 6: 1 or more community checks

Step 7: Back translation

Step 8: Consultant check

Step 9: Revision resulting from consultant check plus details check (spelling, punctuation, etc.)

Step 10: Layout and limited distribution for community feedback

Step 11: Full publication

Step 12: Celebrations

Throughout this translation process, and beyond, the church community is often keen to put the Bible into use.  Sometimes, Indigenous Scripture workers focus specially on these important tasks: encouraging own language literacy, leading Bible studies, developing and promoting resources like music and song books, booklets, banners, recordings, and so on.  Often, draft Bible passages are used for special occasions like baptisms or ordinations, and translators use these times to share their work, and hear feedback. 

Though the process of translation is methodical, it is not clinical.  We hope that this series sheds light on the processes, but it should also reflect some of the relationships and experiences of communities involved in Scripture work - most of all, the transforming power of God’s Word as it becomes accessible to more people.