TRANSLATING THE BIBLE TO MOTHER TONGUE TO SAVE DISAPPERING LANGUAGES IN NORTHERN NIGERIA

May 3rd, 2018

Abdul Lauya writes on the efforts of Nigeria Bible Translation Trust ( NBTT) to save some indeginous languages in the North, by translating the Bible to their mother tongues

One of the most potent ways of understanding the culture and history of a people is through its language. It is the uniquely human gift through which culture, traditions and shared values may be conveyed and preserved; and helps to differentiate humans from primates.

Determined to avert extinction of minority languages especially in Northern Nigeria, the Nigeria Bible Translation Trust (NBTT), Jos, Plateau State, said it has so far translated the New Testament into 21 different languages in the northern part of the country.

This was disclosed by the Executive Director, NBTT, Sule Auta at the end of a three-week intensive consultant-checking workshop, which brought together 80 participants and foreign consultants last year.

The Nigeria Bible Translation Trust (NBTT), one of the several Bible translation societies in Nigeria has the core mandate of helping language communities in Nigeria translate the scriptures from English to the mother tongues.

NBTT is working with over 120 languages to produce materials that will be there for ages that will give people their identity; because without the language, the identity is lost. At present, over 300 languages in Nigeria are yet to be identified for this purpose.

It is the desire of everybody to have the scripture translated into the language that they understand best. When you read the Bible in your mother tongue, you feel that the Bible is talking to you directly. And by translating the Bible into Nigerian languages, you are helping to develop, preserve and stop the languages from going into extinction.

But Literacy and Language Development which precedes Bible translation comes with enormous challenges as it takes a lot of research into the orthography of the language- the way the words are spelt; before the alphabets and writing systems are developed for that language. This is why it takes several years to get the Bible translated into any language.

The Bible Society of Nigeria (BSN), one of the foremost translation trusts in Nigeria was founded in 1966. Before then, we had the British and Foreign Bible Societies translating the Bible in Nigeria as far back as 1807. That is why the first local bible, which is the Efik bible, was published in 1858 followed by the Yoruba Bible in 1864.

In an interview with Journalists to mark the 50th anniversary of the body in 2016, General Secretary, BSN, Rev. Dare Ajiboye, revealed that it takes a minimum of 38 years, and N40 million to translate into one language in Nigeria, while it takes a minimum of 12 years to do same in some other countries. He said that his society is currently working on 15 ongoing projects, and hopes to complete them in the next 10 years.

a�?At present, we are working with 126. We are working on the New Testament for 37 of them and the Old Testament for 56 of them. 33 languages have both the New and Old Testament Bible completely translated. Now, we are working with the 33 in the area of literacy. We have 30 that are prospective ones. More than 30, in fact, because wea��ve just signed partnership with five more, and Ia��m going to sign with three more for whom we are going to start the New Testamenta�?, he stated.

In Nigeria, the work is being supported by oversees organizations like the Wycliffe, and Spread the Gospel (SEED) Company, which works mainly at linking donors to Bible translation projects. Nigerian churches and individuals also help. Communities requesting translation into their language also contribute to their respective projects. MoUs are signed with these communities, where they support work in form of counterpart funding to pay translators and other support staff.

Recently, the Dadiya ethnic nationality gathered at Gadamayo Primary School, Bambam-Yelwa Zone, Balanga LGA of Gombe State for the 24th edition of Dadiya language Literacy and Bible Translation Convention. The bi-annual gathering, first held in 2005 is organized to galvanise support and raise funds to bankroll the Dadiya language literacy development/Bible translation project.

Speaking at the convention, the Project Chairman, Rev Danjuma T. Maisamari, said that 20 out of the 27 books of the New Testament have been completed and approved by a US based consultant, Mr Randy Groff; while the remaining 7 books have been successfully translated but awaiting his final approval.

Rev Maisamari identified lack of funds as major challenge, and urged Dadiya elites home and abroad to support the project as it is capital intensive. The Dadiya Bible Translation project which began in 2005, is supported by the Nigerian Bible Translating Trust (NBTT) and Luke Initiative for Scriptural Translation (LIST) Jos.

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