International Mother Language Day has been observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic, cultural diversity and multilingualism.
According to the United Nations, at least 43% of the estimated 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given a place in education systems and the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.
Language impacts the society in education, economics and cultural diversity, business and generally how people relate. It also plays a huge role in how effectively the Gospel is spread.
Language enables people to communicate, have an identity, promote social integration and enhances the development of a society. Yet some languages are increasingly under threat due to lack of orthography or anything documented in those languages. In some communities, the Bible is the only available document. The Bible, therefore, acts as a form of language preservation hence it must be taught from an early age.
Bible Society of Kenya has so far translated the Bible into 22 local languages so that people may understand the word better. The languages include; Kiswahili, Pokot, Kikamba, Somali, Kalenjin, Turkana, Kimiiru, Lubukusu, Borana, Lunyore, Dholuo, Oluluyia, Ekegusii, Nandi, Gikuyu, Logooli, Kiembu – Kimbeere, Maasai, Lusamia, Lutirichi-Lwisukha-Lwitakho, Taita and Lusamia.
BSK empowers marginalized communities with low literacy levels to learn their language and read the Bible in their heart language. Currently the adult literacy program is being conducted in Turkana County. Statistics show illiteracy levels in the county are at 80%. The literacy program has empowered more than 800 learners in the community to acquire basic reading and writing skills. The learners are now able to read the Bible, run their business better, communicate effectively, help their children with homework, hold leadership positions and Preach the gospel well. The Pokot and Maasai communities have also benefited from this programme in the recent past.
The story of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:29-31 highlights that it was important for apostle Phillip to explain to the Eunuch the message he was reading as he confessed his lack of understanding of the Scriptures. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So, Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
Bible translation helps individuals and communities to relate easily with the gospel message as it speaks to one’s heart. As a Society, we shall continue to empower people with God’s word as it is a lamp to our feet and light to our paths (Psalm 119:105).