Who's Who on a Bible Translation Team?
There are several members of a bible translation team and each team looks slightly different depending on their unique situation.
The ultimate goal is to produce a translation that is clear in the target language and accurate to the original text. Achieving this goal takes a lot of people! Who does what and where do you fit in the effort to bring God's word to every language?
Translators - In the past century, foreign missionaries spent decades immersed in the language before translating. Today's translators are mother-tongue speakers (meaning they know this language from birth or very close) trained in translation principles. Many Bible translation organizations focus resources toward training workshops to equip more mother-tongue translators, believing that native speakers are best qualified to produce a natural-sounding and clear translation.
Test Audience - Throughout the translation process, the team takes the translation draft out into the community to test it. Different community members read or listen to the draft, answer comprehension test questions or retell the story in their own words. The best testing audience includes members from different socio-linguistic groups than the translators - for example, different ages, genders, classes, and education levels - to ensure the translation communicates well across these groups. Changes are made based on the testing responses.
Community Review Board - These are community and local church leaders who commit to oversee and advise the project. From strategizing what type of translation will work best in their community to deciding on key biblical term renderings, this group provides quality feedback all along the way. They also help keep the project focused and on schedule, checking in periodically to make sure stated objectives are being met.
Translation Consultants and Translation Advisors - Highly-trained experts in biblical exegesis, source texts, and translation practices, consultants provide quality checks to ensure the translation's clarity and accuracy to the original. They also teach translators through workshops and training sessions to improve translation quality. After formal education, many consultants complete a multi-year apprenticeship as a consultant-in-training (CiT) in order to gain the experience and skills they need. (And that's what I'm doing right now!) An increasing number of consultants today are mother-tongue translators who continue their education to help neighboring language groups. Translation advisors also have education in exegesis and biblical source texts (though not as much as consultants) and can help a team prepare their draft for the consultant check.
Supporting Partners - Individuals, local groups, churches, and international organizations that commit to supporting the translation project through prayer and financial giving. This type of support pays for computer equipment, training workshops, travel, translator compensation, printing and publishing costs, and distribution. Supporting partners can come from the local language group or the other side of the globe! There are several ways to become involved in supporting the bible translation movement without ever leaving home.
Every translation project needs all of these participants to accomplish their goal of bringing God's Word to their language group. Where on this team can you serve?