For many people around the world, the ability to switch between two or more languages is a normal fact of life.
Through my years of involvement with Wycliffe, I have become aware of the many factors that contribute to an individual or a community consciously or subconsciously giving up their heritage language.
Elsi, from Kalimantan, Indonesia, speaks six languages. Last year Elsi came to the Wycliffe National Centre at Kangaroo Ground to improve her English.
In the world of Bible translation, the linguistic and social landscape looks very different from the situation 64 years ago when the Australian mission community started Wycliffe in Australia as a specialist mission to support Bible translation and training in linguistics.
Where I work, the youth don’t speak their heritage language – they’ve ‘shifted’ to using a regional dialect of the national language.
Jesus of Nazareth functioned in a multilingual environment. He most likely spoke Aramaic, the language of his home and neighbourhood, and appears to have had good command of biblical Hebrew when reading the Scriptures.
It is in the context of the Ayatollah’s Iranian revolution of 1982, and the subsequent persecution of Christians that the translation of the modern Farsi Bible was birthed. As Christians fled as refugees and added to the multilingual Persian diaspora in the UK, a new opportunity presented itself.
In the world of Wycliffe we have used the term ‘language of the heart’ to describe someone’s mother tongue, the language they learnt in their homes and community of birth.
Wycliffe members John & Marjo Brownie working as translation facilitators with SIL International are responding to the multilingual needs of the Mussau people and the church.