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Think Tank: Oral Bible Translation & Transcription

In May, WSA hosted a two-day OBT Think Tank represented by different organisations*. The OBT&T approach resonated because of the fact that: first, Scriptures were initially oral; second, most unreached populations are orally oriented (which doesn’t mean illiterate); third, oral people need the written text and vice versa; and fourth, communities are requesting the written text which has to be as natural as possible and not differ from the recordings - this is accomplished through transcription.

In this conference, it was acknowledged that OBT is a crucial initiative that requires an academic approach, and that transcription is advantageous to non-written languages as it aims to accommodate oral language features. This approach provides Scripture in two forms: recorded and written. The recorded Word of God has an element of accelerated impact, which is seen immediately in life transformation starting with the translators themselves. It was also pointed out that OBT is a Scripture Engagement activity because it requires discussions on background information, biblical  concepts, and cultural and linguistic issues. Lastly, it was suggested that Greek and Hebrew be used as source languages and not merely resource texts for translators.

Some OBT&T challenges were pointed out, such as the fact that most of the remaining languages are small and have no literature and, therefore, there is a need for language development. There is also the issue of quality assurance and authenticity. Furthermore, there is a connection between the carrier of the message and the voice which lays a challenge in the selection of the local teams. Lastly, there is a general shortage of consultants, especially in OBT&T.

p2 Nampula Church

As to what the future of OBT&T looks like, this points to a spiritual turning point for oral-oriented communities, minority groups in particular. The photo above is a local Catholic congregation (in Nampula, Mozambique) that, in one voice, has requested the recently recorded and published Scripture portions.

Next is to continue the translation work, now in entire books, along with analyses of orthography and discourse in all OBT&T projects, by hosting workshops and interviews.

By Busie Khanyile

*Wycliffe South Africa, Youth With A Mission, The Seed Company, SIL International, Whole World Institute, Wycliffe Global Alliance, Global Partnerships, Spoken Worldwide, Global Recordings Network, The Word For The World and Faith Comes By Hearing

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