Bible Translation

Scripture in Mother Tongue, is this Needed in Tribal Languages?

Our country India consists of thousands of ethnic groups classified into tribes, castes and communities. They represent diversity of religions, languages and culture. The oldest inhabitants of the land are officially classified as scheduled Tribes and are popularly known as “Adivasis”.

Origin of the People and Evangelism

The origin and the development of the people of India is an important study for missionaries and Evangelists. We must know people before we try to work out strategies for effective communication. Indian society is multi-racial, multi-linguistics, multi-cultural and multi-religous. The present tribal population figures can be estimated as 9 to 10 percent numbering from 85 to 95 million people in India. To reach all of them with Gospel we need to cross the barriers of language, culture and religion. “The History of missions shows that the success or failure of missions has always been dependent on whether those brought to Christ had the scriptures in their own language or not” Dr.G.Cambell Morgan.

Tribal Language

Tribes in India have their own languages and dialects. Many of them are unwritten but still they remain as their “heart language” and their mother tongue.

Though many of the tribes speak and understand the state language ( Tamil or Malayalam) which they use the purpose of Trade, they still communicate within their own group in their own Mother Tongue.

There are 203 Major Tribal languages spoken by the tribes in India. The status of Bible Translation in Tribal Languages are as follows.

Total no. of languages – 500

Major Languages – 203 (spoken by more than 50,000)

Scripture available:

Full Bible – 24

New Testament – 22

Even 75% of the tribal languages do not have any form of scripture and they are un-reached.

Scripture in Mother Tongue

It is a popular belief is this, since the Bible is available in the major languages of India, it is sufficient to meet the needs of every person in India. But past experiences has shown that to effectively communicate the goods news about Jesus, God’s word needs to be presented not just in state language, but in a person’s mother tongue. The main reason is, all over the world mother tongue is the language a person learns first. It is learnt in a natural way at home. The mother tongue also becomes a symbol of a person’s culture and belief.

In the Bible Genesis 11 : 1-10 describes how the people of the world scattered by Angles of the Lord by making them to speak different unknown languages. And in acts 2 : 1-11 we see at the day of Pentecost the Redeemer sends this Holy spirit and the people are speaking different languages for unity and for redemption.

The Holy Spirit uses scriptures in the mother tongue as a powerful weapon for the effective spread of Gospel and for the Church Growth.

Second Cause – Ability to Understand

It has been proved that people speaking one language cannot successfully use the scriptures in another language even if their ability to understand the second language is high. Consider the illustration. Even if one can understand 80% of the second language, what will be his understanding of a verse? Let us delete 20% of the worlds and read a verse, can we get the meaning?

Eg : “The lord is my I shall not ”.

Out of 8 words only two are missing. How we can understanding the meaning? This is why major Tribal population is not understanding the Gospel when it is proclaimed in the state language.

Self – Esteem and Gospel

In many cases a minority people groups may have been historically an oppressed people. There may be dynamics of discrimination prosecution, repression or even cycles of conquest.

The individuals of such a group or society may have very poor – self esteem. They may believe their language and culture are interior to others and invaluable and may be ashamed to admit their ethnic identity. They may believe they speak invalid dialects and non authentic languages. But we can communicate there God – creator of the universe, spoke into existence their language; their race. They are extremely valuable in God’s sight.

Will this come possible, it we do not bring the message in their own Mother Tongue? William Cameron was challenged by a Tribal Elderly persons of his mission field with a question, “If your God is Almighty, can’t we speak in my mother”. Gregorio Tingson, a well-known-Philippine evangelists says, “In my country, English is very widely used; But when a young man wants to say to his beloved, “I love you” he says it in his own mother tongue only, not in English. It is his soul speaking to her soul.

God wants to say, “I love you” to every person in India. he wants to point them to the scriptures and say, “here is the story of my love for you”. He demonstrated this desire by speaking to every one who gathered on the day of Pentecost, in their mother tongue.

In obeying Christ’s Great omission “Preach the Gospel”

“Teach all Nations………….. All things I commanded you”.

The preaching must be in the mother tongue for better understanding of the Receptor. In Reality the stag ness in Evangelism of Indian Tribes is the course of Non-availability of scriptures in their mother tongue. Don’t you feel that to bring these most receptive peoples of India to the fold of our Redeemer, it is essential Bible should be translated in their Mother Tongue? Your Involvement in any one project may shower the Blessings of God to this underpriviledged people.
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