Mother-Tongue Translators on the Team

Posted on: 
May 25, 2023

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.

  • “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
  • “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witness of these things.” Luke 24:47, 48
  • “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19
  • “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3
  • “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel.” Ephesians 3:6
  • “That they all may be one; as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:21
  • “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” Mark 11:17
  • “Ask of me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance.” Psalm 2:8
  • “Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes.” Revelation 7:9
  • “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1
  • “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16
  • “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
  • “As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.” Proverbs 25:25
  • “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:10
  • “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You.” Psalm 22:27
  • “Truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.” Numbers 14:21
  • “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 96:3, 4
  • “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14
  • “That all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.” 1 Kings 8:60
  • “For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations.” Malachi 1:11
  • “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name.” Psalm 86:9
  • “For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” Isaiah 61:11
  • "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" Psalm 46:10
  • "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:3, 4
  • "You are worthy. . .; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God." Revelation 5:9, 10