When Ben realized the need for a translation of the Bible in the Mayangna language several years ago, he didn’t attempt the job on his own. His closest collaborator was a Mayangna believer, and together they set out to meet the need. Today, this brother’s family is carrying forward the work of translating the Scriptures faithfully into their mother tongue.
In West Africa, an All-Nations member works with a team of Madara believers, experienced translators, to translate the Old Testament. Previously, the three mother-tongue translators had helped translate the New Testament.
In southern Mexico, the first draft of a book of the Bible is completed by a mother-tongue speaker of the Mixtec language. Mixtec speakers will remain involved throughout the process and will review drafts before Scripture portions are published.
Not a One-Man Job
Collaboration is one of All-Nations’ values for translation. The All-Nations translator views himself not as the one who does the translating, but as part of a team. Mother-tongue speakers are the core of a translation team.
Imagine reading an English Bible translated by a newcomer from Asia who had studied English for three years. Would it read smoothly and sound like natural English? What if such a Bible were the only one available to your church! Would you trust it as an accurate translation of God’s Word?
A Part for Each to Play
Though the cross-cultural translator is a foreigner, he does fill crucial roles. He is a facilitator, bringing people together for the work and coordinating the effort. He is an exegete, searching out the meaning of the original Hebrew or Greek text for accurate translation. He is a trainer, making it possible for indigenous people to do new and useful things, helping them develop skills necessary for church life and teaching others.
As for the mother-tongue translators, they become disciples, first of the cross-cultural team, and ultimately—unless they reject him—of Jesus himself. Take, for example, a Mixtec translator who is not yet a believer. Profoundly impacted by Jesus’ power over demons as he helped translate a New Testament story, he thought deeply and exclaimed, “God’s words are beautiful!”
For the beauty of God’s words to be recognized in each language, they need clear and natural expression. Cross-cultural Bible translators team with those much better qualified to express the Bible's message clearly and naturally in the language of the people: mother-tongue speakers.