230 the Language Challenge


The world’s languages represent one of the major barriers to spreading the gospel. Here are some factors.

The Sheer Volume of Languages. We discussed earlier the sheer volume of seventeen thousand speech forms and the problems of communicating between dialects and primary languages.

The Prejudice factor. But what if dialect speakers are bilingual in the primary language? Do we still need to present the gospel to them in their own dialect. Even if they understand the major language, they are often prejudiced against those people so will reject the message before listening to it. It may be as simple as, “they don’t speak properly.” If the speakers of one speech form feel either superior or inferior to the speakers of another form, even though they can understand what is being said, they may not wish to accept it.

Major and Minor Languages. Often groups who speak a minor language have been subjugated by speakers of a major language. They may have been forced to learn the major language. In that case, they will be less likely to accept a gospel presentation in that language.

Accessibility. Many of these languages are located in countries that are closed to missionaries or are far from the beaten track.

Literacy. A majority of the smaller groups are oral communicators. They either don’t have a written language, or only a few speakers can read.
The Ultimate Goal. The goal is for missionaries to learn each of those languages and dialects so they can preach, teach, and translate the Bible. A lot has been accomplished, but we are not there yet.

Bible Translation.
Most major groups have at least a portion of the Bible translated into their language. The New Testament has been translated into 1,275 languages. A further 1,500 Bible translations are in progress. This still leaves thousands of speech forms with no Bible translation.

Good News. Even though Bible translation has a long way to go, there is some good news. Global Recordings Network (GRN) has made audio recordings in over 6,300 speech forms. These are scriptural messages couched in the culture of the people rather than direct Bible translations.

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