There are many ways of preserving language; one of them being writing. Many books and literature have been published but very few in local languages. In the 19th century children, were taught in local languages at the lower levels of schools. However this practice is slowly fading away with modernization and change in school curriculum’s.
Bible translation in local languages comes in strongly as a language preservative in the imminent threat of extinction that some languages are already facing. Some languages have been absorbed by other languages hence leading to extinction. For instance in Kenya some languages have become extinct e.g. Elmolo, Kinare, Kore, Lorkoti, Sogoo, Suba, Yaaku. African languages are especially vulnerable as governments adopt official languages while discouraging local ones, in hopes of attaining national identity.
Language impacts the daily lives of members of any race, creed, and region of the world. Language helps express our feelings, desires, and queries to the world around us. The unique and diverse methods human beings can use to communicate through written and spoken language is a large part of what allows to harness our innate ability to form lasting bonds with one another; separating mankind from the rest of the animal kingdom.
Bible translation started in Kenya in 1844 with the arrival of the German Missionary, Dr. Johann Ludwig Krapf. Soon after his arrival, he translated the New Testament into Kimvita Swahili. Translation of only three chapters of Genesis was followed closely by translation of the Gospel of Luke into Kiduruma in 1848 and the Gospel of Mark into Kikamba in 1850. During this period, Bible work was carried out by volunteer missionaries and was not organized in any formal manner until 1869 when the British and Foreign Bible Societies (BFBS) started agency work in Kenya.
The missionaries translated a number of scripture formats during this period and took them for printing in their countries. The translated scriptures were later sent back to the same missionaries to distribute as part of their missionary calling. During this period a number of scriptures were produced which included Kiswahili Central in 1878,the book of Jonah in Kiribe in 1878, the Gospel of Luke in Kigiriama in 1892,the Gospel of Mark in Kisagalla in 1892 and the Gospel of Mark in Pokomo in 1894.
With the independence of Kenya in 1963, Churches and Kenyans in general felt the need to take the responsibility of their own Bible Society. In 1970 the Bible Society was registered under the Societies Act.
With the over 60 languages spoken in Kenya only 21 have the complete Bible in their language. We have another 15 who have the New Testament, 10 have portions of the Scripture while work is ongoing in another 5. However 4 languages are still waiting for Bible translation to ever start.
Bible Society of Kenya works in partnership with Churches in the communities to translate the Bible. The Bible was originally written in Greek and Hebrew. It has been translated into many languages across the world so as to enable many people access the Word of God.
Translation work is closely related to the development of education and literacy in Kenya. Communities in Kenya that were fortunate to receive the Scriptures early ended up having higher levels of literacy and hence a good foundation for education and socioeconomic development.
Apart from Bible translation Bible Society of Kenya encourages use of local languages through literacy programmes which have been running in Maasai, Turkana and Pokot communities. Acquisition of literacy skills does not only help in language development but also enhancing relationships, effective running of businesses, helping children with school work and economic empowerment.
Bible Society of Kenya and Bible Translation and Literacy seek to ensure that every community has a Bible in their native language by 2030. We need your support to actualize this goal. It will be our communal pride and joy when every people group has been reached with the word of God in a language they understand best which is mother tongue.
A total of Ksh 400 million is required to achieve this goal though the Kenya National Bible Translation Fund. Kindly send your contribution to paybill number 777332 Account No. is your Name to support this noble course.