Language matters

By Max Sahl | Wycliffe Today October 2019


This year is the International Year of Indigenous Languages. To celebrate the occasion, the Royal Australian Mint has released a commemorative 50 cent coin.  The unique design incorporates translations for the word ‘coin’ from 14 of the many Indigenous languages in Australia. 

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (AIATSIS) makes these points about language: 

Language is more than just a means to communicate, it  . . . plays a central role in a sense of identity. Language also carries meaning beyond the words themselves, and is an important platform within which much cultural knowledge and heritage is passed on.

Speaking and learning traditional languages improves the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by providing a sense of belonging and empowerment.  Educational outcomes improve when children are taught in their first language, especially in the early years. Interpreting and translating, language teaching and learning, and producing resources in Indigenous Australian languages provide significant economic, social and intrinsic benefits to individuals and communities.*

This has been the experience of Wycliffe Bible Translators worldwide. Language goes deep to the core of who a person is, whether it be in the highlands of PNG, the jungles of South America or the deserts of Western Australia. Identity, meaning, culture, heritage, belonging, wellbeing and empowerment are all interconnected with indigenous languages. This is why languages matter and this is why we translate God’s Word into indigenous languages!


*  ‘Why is Language Important?’  Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies:
Accessed 31 July, 2019

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