Can a virtual conference be better than a live one?

Dear Friends,

Every two years, SIL hosts the Bible Translation Conference.  It is usually the highlight of the year as it offers us an incredible opportunity to gain access to the who’s who of Bible translation and to provide information, services, and training that they wouldn’t have access to otherwise.  For example, at the 2019 conference my (Doug’s) team hosted three separate training events before, during, and after the conference.

The 2021 conference is starting now, Oct. 15, and here we sit at home.  That’s right, it is completely virtual this year. These virtual meetings are starting to get old, but putting frustration aside, for the Bible Translation Conference it is a blessing in disguise. While we had 500 participants in 2019, the number has now almost doubled to 995!  Without the expense of travel, many more Bible translators and consultants can participate. And humorously, the presenters may even be more engaging since they all had to record their 25-minute presentation in advance. I know firsthand that watching yourself on video makes you adjust and improve your presentation to a better quality than just running with it live. Fortunately, the presenters will still answer live questions after the presentations, and will now have the time to do so since they can't run overtime. 

There are so many exciting topics concerning the methodology of Bible translation and the technology behind it!  I’m presenting on enhanced resources in Paratext, a new method for exegesis and drafting. To prepare for this, P.J. and I took a work sabbatical last week away from home. We both benefited from a quiet and pleasant environment to focus on my research and for her to forge ahead on her publishing system. We both accomplished a great deal, and the conference presentation was finished and uploaded by the morning we left to come home.

Over the next year and a half, my department has an exciting and demanding new project ahead for which we would like your prayers.  The Paratext Bible translation software is actively used by over 9,800 people around the world – which we estimate to be 95% of the Bible translation workforce.  It is currently limited by the interface languages in which the software is available – currently about seven are complete.  We praise God that my department has received funding to get the interface translated into 36 more gateway languages between now and the end of 2022.  We call them gateway languages because they already have the Bible in them, but can act as a bridge between languages translators speak and the languages they hope to reach.  For example, Nigeria has around 500 languages, but there are three major gateway languages that are widely understood.  If we make the translation tools available in all these three, we can potentially reach all the languages in Nigeria. I just signed the first translation contract but there are many more to get started.  This is a big responsibility, with the potential for incredible impact to the Bible translation movement. May God speed this work onward!