Post 67 / The Next Language

Oral Tradition

Our International Director, Graydon Colville, recently forwarded us a link to an interesting article on Oral Bible Translation and Oral Bible Storying.  Included were spokespersons for Faith Comes by Hearing, Wycliffe Global Alliance, and Youth with a Mission.

We have been in direct contact with all of these agencies in our quest to get more efficient at getting the story of Jesus into every language.  We have consulted with Youngshin Kim of  YWAM and some of our staff have actually taken the seminars by Robin Rempel on the Story Producer App of SIL which is used right on android cell phones.

It is fascinating to me that we, the oldest and I believe original mission of recorded oral translation of the Gospel, are today learning new things about audio recording from those that in my lifetime pushed back at the entire concept.

I would  like to give the example of a recent experience in the language of  Mixteco: Tijaltepec.  We had met a pastor at the memorial service of Marcelino who had assigned a coalition of Mixteco pastors to help us record a number of unrecorded languages here in Oaxaca.  Marcelino died of covid complications in August and we are still trying to pull together strands of this coalition to complete the promised recordings.

We met Felipe who invited us to come to his people to record.  We got there to find that we were rooming next door to an SIL exploratory team who were evaluating the possibility  of doing a New Testament in this language.  So we found ourselves for the better part of a week doing recordings with an audience of trained Bible Translators along with eager language helpers anticipating working on the coming Bible translation.

One of the reasons we had agreed to the project was because the translators said there were mistakes in the older recordings.  The older recordings were the Look Listen and Live series #7 which is a synopsis of the miracles and following teaching points in the book of John.  The translator claimed that we had failed to claim that Jesus was God as reflected in John 1:1- “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

Once we got into it I realized that because the booklet which the translator had for the LLL #7 referenced “John 1” as the source and she thought we were translating John 1. We did a back translation with Filipe and he confirmed that the oral story followed the script but did not follow the Scripture passage word for word.  The GRN script was telling the story of the content but was not directly translating the Scripture chapter.  Philippe  was actually the one that came to our defense. He said, “It does not say “Jesus was God” but how could He not be God if He created everything with the word of His power?”

I explained to the translators that we actually go out of our way to not complicate their work.  If we purport to translate Scripture we actually make it more difficult for the Bible tsranslators who come later and, through more research,  have to say something different, to be faithful to the text.  For that reason we do not use direct Scripture quotes in our scripts unless there are actual scripture indigenous texts of Scripture to quote.  Storying something like a summary of the teachings of Romans like 1-8 such as Don Richter once did is instructive but is not Bible translation. No one should ever confuse the two.

What we have to avoid in our storytelling is heresy.  Although we did not literally say that Jesus was God we certainly implied that He was.

We had some very animated discussions with the translators and I think we both came away with an appreciation for what the other was doing.  They were able to give us some tips on Mixteco discourse structure that will be helpful in many Mixteco projects.  I pray that they will be able to achieve the translation of a New Testament in this relatively large language.

Our biggest challenge was re-educating our language helpers out of Bible Translation mode.  At first they refused to record without actually looking at Scripture.  We were getting nowhere until the second day when the language helper came up with a recording he had made the night before on his cell phone.  Eventually we were able to get the language helper to set down his Bible and just tell us the stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin.  We were finally getting an oral rendition that was orally appropriate but unplugged from the Spanish text.

As a practice we are no longer recording from GRN written scripts.  We took the most commonly used scripts here in Mexico and broke them into simple segments and recorded them in “Indian” Spanish. We use those audio files for a starting point in translation.  This has greatly sped up the translation process in most cases.  A lot depends on the skills of the language helper.

In the Mixteco: San Miguel Las Pinas we had an amazing language helper who asked for entire sections of the Good News series.  He would listen and in a short time translate the entire thing in an amplified exposition extemporaneously.  The 45 minute Good News message in this case turned into more than two hours.  We still have to back translate this but given this man’s understanding of the Word I am confident that we have valuable content.

I find it a little ironic that a conversation on orality is written and studied in print.  I recently conversed with a language helper that insisted that she could only record if she wrote it down first.  I suggested that what she would write down would not be the same as what she spoke as a translation and would not perhaps be as dynamic.  She agreed but said she was a slave to the print now as an educated woman and we would have to suffer the consequences.  As do we.

What I would really like to do is to deliver this blog to you as an oral video/blog. Some day!

God Bless,

Larry DeVilbiss | Executive Director

Global Recordings Network USA

If you are interested in learning how to share links on social media
that will promote use of our recordings and the Gospel in general,
please phone Roland Heck at 951-216-9985.

Previous “The Next Language” posts
Works of  Man – Post 66
Deliverance – Post 65
New Discoveries – Post 64
The Wall of Pain – Post 63
Is There a Place for the Gospel in Your Story – Post 62
The Love Pyramid – Post 61
Obsession – Post 60
Verb Tenses in Hebrews – Post 59
The Unseen Weapon – Post 58
The Gospel Arrives in Zapoteco:Elotepec – Post 57
Fishing – GRN Style – Post 56
A New Day in Mexico – Post 55
Seeking – Post 54
Pick Your Battles – Post 53
How Big Is Your God? – Post 52
A Muted Gospel? – Post 51
Dedication Service for Marcos – Post 50
Two Weeks, Two Months, Two Years – Post 49
What Will You Give to Jesus – Post 48
Special Assignment – Post 47
The Good and the Best – Post 46
How Many Languages Are There? – Post 45
Verifying Speech Varieties – Post 44
Those God Things – Post 43
Meet Notch, the Desert Cottontail – Post 42
The Lost Languages – Post 41
The Rest of the Yoke – Post 40
What About Those Last Languages – Post 39
A Yoke That Fits – Post 38
The Other Side – Post 37
It Is Finished – Post 36
On the Ground in Culiacan – Post 35
I Will Go With Thee – Post 34
Unseen Warfare – Post 33
God of the Gaps – Post 32
The Father of Faith Missions – Post 31
WAIT – Post 30
Our Ultimate Weapon – Post 29
What Are You Doing Here – Post 28
Recordist Training Course Update – Post 27
Still Shameful – Post 26
Numbers Update – Post 25
The Gospel and Idolatry – Post 24
Could Ye Not Pray – Post 23
John the Baptist and the New Normal – Post 22
Genesis of a Script – Post 21
Embena Experiences – Post 20
An Easter Like No Other – Post 19
Go Or Stay Home – Post 18
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