Oral Translation (Technically Speaking)

Oral Translation (Technically Speaking)

February 2, 2018


When Emmanuel looks at Render working on his tablet, he sees more than a tool for Oral Bible Translation. He sees spiritual hope for 50,000 Gawali* people.

Emmanuel and his wife, Esther, have worked among the Gawali people in eastern Africa for eight years. Emmanuel and his team of 16 people (mostly from the predominant major religion) have used the Render app since September 2016 to translate the Gospel of Luke into the local language. The project comes on the coattails of an Oral Bible Storytelling project that translated 29 major Bible stories into Gawali.

Emmanuel considers using Render to do oral Bible translation the next logical step for his adopted people.

“We are very excited by the progress we have made on the Render project, because we have translated over half of the book of Luke,” says Emmanuel, team leader for the Gawali translation project. “Not only that, but the people who are involved in the project also are very excited about their language being preserved.”

Touchscreen App Touches People

Emmanuel says he and the team chose to do Oral Bible Translation because, like many Africans, the Gawali prefer to communicate orally rather than in writing.

Render makes it easier for people with little or no formal education to participate in the translation process. All they need to know is how to speak their native language. Translations are community checked for naturalness and consultant checked for accuracy.

So even if a translator has never read a Bible verse before, the end result is as reliable as traditional written translations.

The app also is easy to use, even for people who haven’t touched a computer. It uses icons on a tablet touchscreen to walk users through 36 first-draft recordings, checks, and edits, all the way through to finished 37 Scripture passages. In none of the steps do translators have to write or type anything; every word is captured and checked orally.

“It opens up the world to a whole new set of people who have been excluded until now,” says Sandy Gould, Seed Company’s vice president of translation administration. Last year, Seed Company worked with four Bible translation projects using Render. This year, the number will increase exponentially.

Community Involvement and Ownership

The Gawali translation team is split evenly into four groups of four people. Using Render, the groups act as a sort of pre-check on each other, making sure that the verses sound just like a Gawali person would say them.

Emmanuel and his team got several community and church leaders involved in the project from the start. The idea is to give them ownership of the project so that they become active users of the Scripture once it is translated. Community leaders also are happy that their language is being preserved, Emmanuel says.

“This was a significant part of their acceptance of the project,” he says. “For this reason, there is a bigger chance that they will want to use the finished translation.”

*For security reasons, the exact location of this story cannot be given, and a pseudonym is used for the people group.

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