Oral Bible Recordings

Oral Bible translators - meeting in Cape Town
Oral Bible translators - meeting in Cape Town

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Noel Bachelor, GRN AU, presenting a session at the translators' training
Well trained recordists are a blessing to unreached people groups

Traditional Bible translation requires first developing a functional writing system for the target language, then translating the written text. After the various checks are done, the resulting text is often recorded to make it available to those who can't read, which in many traditional cultures, may be most of the people.

In the past few years, a pioneering project by a team of translators with consultants from Wycliffe and other organisations, has been using oral translation and audio recording techniques, to draft, check and publish the completed Bible content, without needing it to be written down.

Bushman Click Languages - In Partnership with Seed Company

The 'Bushman' languages of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana and Namibia have presented significant challenges in developing writing systems, partly due to their unusually large number of 'sounds', which include many different 'click' sounds. Multiple attempts have been made at a writing system in a couple of the languages, but they struggle to be accepted. Other varieties still have no practical alphabet.

Last April Noel Bachelor travelled to Cape Town, South Africa. He went to teach a group of translators the art and science of recording so they could record the oral Bibles they were translating: the bushman click languages of Botswana and Namibia. GRN provided these Bushmen with appropriate recording equipment and Noel taught them how to use it with similar techniques to those used by other GRN recordists, to get more consistent and better quality recordings. It has been so encouraging to hear the recordings that have been produced as a result of that course.

As the recordings are now more clearly understood, this has also resulted in better quality checking of the translation. The completed recordings are made available to speakers of the languages via GRN's websites and apps, with a steady stream of them now coming in.

Dalene Joubert, our leader in South Africa, organised the course and has been supporting the translators with their recording work. She received the following email from David Long of Seed Company, talking about the recording of !Xoon in Botswana:

"By last year October's end all of Luke had been checked and final recordings made on our very fine equipment, and we could say, 'this is the Word of God in !Xoon'. When !Xoon speakers would come into our yard, particularly elders, I'd invite them into the office to 'check the quality' of our work. I would play Luke 15 and the Story from Life (parable of the prodigal son). The reaction was always the same:

  • The listener would first react to the novelty of hearing any high quality prepared audio presentation in their own tongue.
  • Then he or she would settle down quietly to listen.
  • Soon the person was caught by the story, and began to give all the proper responses at the right time: surprise, indignation, laughter.
  • When it was done there would be silence and then they would look at me with joy and satisfaction.

I can hardly wait to relive this experience, and I am planning to do so."

Dalene also tells us that the people from the Omaheke province in Namibia cannot wait. The air is electric as they are waiting for the first Gobabis Ju/'hoansi Bible passages to be made available on 5fish. Dalene says it is essential she continually, both technically and morally, encourage and support the recordists, and show continual care so that they feel safe in the whole process.

It is so exciting to see this partnership flourish in Southern Africa and to see such joy as the translators have good quality recordings to bring God's word to people who cannot read them!

Please pray for Dalene as she leads this work. Pray for the help she needs - recordists and studio workers.

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