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Why so many languages?

Mally McLellan, Translation Coordinator

In the last two years, there have been some amazing developments in Bible translation into indigenous languages. In North East Arnhem Land alone, 7 new projects have started with 3 more waiting in the wings to begin. How could this happen so quickly? Yurranydjil, a translator and translation advisor says:
"We've got a program called 'OurWord' supported by AuSIL for translating Scriptures into different languages. It's touching people's lives and is very effective." Yurranydjil Dhurrkay, Galiwin'ku

But why so many languages? Don't these language groups understand Djambarrpuyŋu, a language which already has a published New Testament? Here's what some of the translators have to say about that.
"If I can hear the Scripture in my language I can feel I am a part of the whole of  life, and the Scriptures can be available to my group as well, just like they are for everyone else. I too can be, and am related to my Creator through the Scriptures."
Yurranydjil Dhurrkay, Galiwin'ku

"Golumala is part of the Dhaŋu'mi language group. I am working with four clans that are within the Dhaŋu'mi group, i.e. Golumala, Gälpu, Ŋaymil and Rirratjiŋu. My project is the Golumala Bible Translation. When I saw that the Timor languages
were translating the Bible using the 'OurWord' program, I could see that it was possible for me to also do this work. It motivated me to record my own language. We started this work in 2009 when Coordinating Support for Indigenous Scriptures
(CSIS) held a workshop for people interested in 'OurWord'."   “I am presently typing all the language work on the ‘OurWord’ program on the computer.”
Djawuṯ Goṉḏarra, Galiwin’ku

“We read (Scripture) with Gumatj at the funeral.  Sometimes I read it in church too - Gumatj. We want to share that word in Gumatj or in Dhuwaya or in Dhay’yi. It’s good for Yolŋu to hear us speaking two languages, English and Yolŋu. [We have] a deeper understanding when we hear our own language spoken, especially the Scriptures.”
Marrpaḻawuy Marika, Yirrkala

God loves diversity. We just have to look at creation to recognize that. The Yolŋu people of North East Arnhem have a wonderful diversity of clans, each with its own language, interacting with each other to form a cohesive society. It is the diversity of the clans and languages that forms the unity of the society, as each is clear of its place in the structure.

“So much is written in English, but we have our language orally. It is also important to have our language written. It is good to have the differences of all the clan languages identified and to know the differences of the vocabulary and the grammar, for
example, in the Djininy language there are even differences to be noted between the two dialects of Mandhalpuy and Ganalbiŋu.”
Mätjarra Garrawurra, Ramingining

“This project helps the community to recognise and value the uniqueness of Dhaŋu’mi language and that it is there for people to pass on, and learn, and to show other language groups by example that they can do this work too.”
Djawuṯ Goṉḏarra, Galiwin’ku

The writers of the New Testament books used the everyday language of ordinary people, Koine Greek. Obviously God meant it to be understood by all. He did not mean it to be shrouded in terms people did not understand. This is why the translators want the Bible in their own languages as well: 
"I encourage Bible readings in the church in language, recording songs in language and sermons, along with radio work etc. This work has been a blessing to us, individually, but also our community has benefitted from it. Individually as trained Bible translators and interpreters, through the training and experience we have gained, we are literate in both English and our local vernacular. Above all, as a community, we are gaining our own Bibles, God’s word in our own respective clan groups and languages.”
Maratja Dhamarraṉdji, Galiwin’ku

Let me encourage you to continue to support these translators in every way you can – in prayer and in giving, so that God’s Word can be understood by all. That way, the Church in Yolŋu lands will be strengthened. To God be the glory!