What you should know about Bible translation and language technology

April 2018

When planning for a language technology workshop, we ask the surrounding countries to send us “the person everyone turns to when there’s a computer issue”. We’re looking for men and women who freely share their technical skills with their colleagues. We can then train them in the technology they need to help others excel in language development work and Bible translation. The map of Africa on the right shows the reach of the first workshop on this trip, but in the past eight weeks, we’ve worked with technologists in Southeast Asia as well. This week begins Language Technology Consultant Training in East Africa after which we head to our final training venue in Europe.  While this is a marathon trip for us, we find joy in working with these Christian brothers and sisters world-wide who have a desire to use their technology skills to help with the translation of the Scriptures.

Like building a house, Bible translation rests on a foundation of linguistic analysis, and the work of drafting the Scripture text is akin to framing a house. It is the most visible part of the construction and can go quickly, but the rest of the work takes a lot of time and many different skills sets. Bible translators, whether trained linguists or gifted mother-tongue translators, do a lot more than drafting. If they want their product to be used, they must also have the skills of data management, publishing, and even audio recording. The role of a translator is not just carpenter, but mason, electrician, roofer, and many more... Underfunded and understaffed, they learn to manage and promote the translation themselves. Then the language technology consultants who are trained at our workshops come alongside them, providing timely technology tools and personal training to do the translation, produce literacy materials, create Scripture apps, and more.

We are so excited to meet these Kingdom warriors and hear of the work they are doing in each of their countries to promote God's Word that the church might grow and thrive through the work of the Holy Spirit through the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

What is Scripture Engagement?

As a translation project advances, Scripture Engagement is the means to get the Scriptures into use and at work in people’s lives. Some techniques include the Jesus film, video, chronological storytelling, distribution of MicroSD cards, social media, audio Bibles, and more. As a Wycliffe member, do we only use methods and materials created by our organization? Certainly not!  Different mission organizations are gifted with different abilities and skills.

Once a year, missions from around the world gather together to share innovative media and distribution methods to make Christ known at an event called EDMC.  Doug and I were blessed to attend this event again, and this year we took part in the pre-conference workshops.  Just to put this into perspective 725 individuals from 193 organizations representing 63 countries were together in one room worshipping, learning and sharing together freely for four days…all with the purpose to proclaim Jesus as Lord in their local language context.  Pretty incredible, eh?

Although Doug presented in one of the break-out sessions, the main reason we attend EMDC is to report on the 14+ break-out sessions dealing with language technology so that all our colleagues who couldn't attend can learn what new things are available to them. We'll include a link to Doug's report for your interest in our next newsletter.

Is bigger better?

We think so!  In January, our Higby clan graduated from just the nucleus family size to extended family with the birth of Hermione Mae to Sara and Kevin! Since Hermione came about four weeks early, we were able to spend more time with her than we anticipated before leaving on our current trip.

But wait there’s more!  In October, we’re anticipating another addition to our family as Kaitlyn and Henry are expecting their first!

“Connection” praises

On February 16, we left Grand Rapids by train to head to Chicago for the first of 21 flights (thankfully not all consecutive). We’ve just passed the eight-week mark of a twelve-week ministry trip covering seven countries.  God has seen us through some stressful conditions like ...

  • a terrorist attack in Ouagadougou the day we left that almost caused our flight out to be canceled.
  • a delayed flight that had a domino effect on our other flights.
  • our first ever earthquake in Southeast Asia.
  • strange food and longing for home cooking.

Yet through all of this God has kept our eyes on Him and provided opportunities for strengthening our faith. Working with colleagues around the world clarifies Doug’s international role; allowing him to talk with end-users in translation projects and understand how the technology he promotes impacts local translation projects.

When Doug isn’t teaching at a language technology workshop, we are looking for free WiFi (the faster the better!), a table, chairs, coffee, and climate control. (Sound like Starbucks? Not usually found where we are!) In those spots, I (P.J.) am currently publishing an ePub book on linguistic tone that is being used in the courses at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics. Doug is always juggling several projects dealing with the promotion and training of language tools. Our electronic calendars are imperative to keep track of virtual meetings in an assortment of time zones.

Getting God’s Word to those who do not have it in their own language is a passion of ours.  Thank you for joining us on that journey through your faithful prayers, interest, and financial giving.

Partners in the Gospel, (Phil 1:5)

Priscilla & Doug Higby

Prayer & Praise

  • Pray for the 725 individuals who attended the Scripture Engagement conference. May they be able to share the Good News of Salvation in a way that speaks to heart language of those they are working with.
  • Pray for continued strength and endurance in the remaining four weeks of this trip.
  • Pray for the team on the ground that is working to promote the audio Fulfulde New Testament.
  • Praise God for His protection and final peace during the events where we felt out-of-control during this trip.
  • Praise God for 37+ men and women who received language technology training on this trip. May they be encouraged to freely share their knowledge and skills with others!
Your gifts enable the Higbys' continued ministry with Wycliffe.
  • By check
    • Payable to: "Wycliffe Bible Translators"
      with the memo: "Doug & Priscilla Higby"
      Mail to: Wycliffe Bible Translators, P.O. Box 628200, Orlando FL 32862-8200

Doug & Priscilla Higby are missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Doug is the International Coordinator for Language Technology Use, and Priscilla is serving as E-Pub Manager with SIL International.

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Mailing address:
934 Alger St SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49507
Phone: (616) 808-8129, 808-1126
These cell numbers now work in 170 countries thanks to Google Fi