Translation team produces audio recordings, trains churches

In the village of Nyegina, in the Kwaya language area, a pastor named Meshack arrives to his church early on a Sunday morning. The worship service won’t begin for another hour, but he turns on the sound system. From his coat pocket, he takes a device the size of a small mobile phone. It has a headphone jack, so he connects it to the system.

As Meshack turns up the volume, a voice carries out loud and clear over the houses and shops of the community. It’s not Meshack preaching. It’s a recording of Scripture being read in Kwaya, the local language. It’s coming from that small device, called a MegaVoice™ Solar Audio Bible.

The neighbourhood is listening. “A lot of people around the church have come by to check out what they were hearing,” said David Murondoro, SIL Scripture Use Specialist. “They aren’t used to hearing their own language on a big sound system like that, so it has attracted a lot of people.”

When SIL’s Kwaya translation team publishes a portion of Scripture, they also make audio recordings for use by those in the community who are unable to read. Pastor Meshack had recently participated in a listening group workshop together with 35 other Kwaya church leaders, and received the audio player loaded with Scripture.

“We train them how to use the device,” said Murondoro, “how to organise listening groups in their community, and how to engage with those listeners about what they have heard from Scripture.” In addition to the Kwaya training, the SIL Mara Cluster Project team also hosted 22 participants for a follow-up workshop in the Zinza language area.

Community interest in Scripture translation often rises when audio copies hit the streets. Pastor Meshack’s ‘broadcasts’ have helped to raise interest in Kwaya Scripture and the translation project. “Now that they have heard the recordings,” Murondoro said, “many people want to get copies for themselves.”

Pastor Meshack’s idea is to promote the listening groups he’s started. The groups themselves are where most people engage with the Scripture recordings and with others as they listen together.

In another Mara Region language area, groups are listening to MegaVoice players loaded with Scripture in the Ikizu language. One woman who participated in a group leader training workshop and received a player began using it in her home with family and friends who came to visit.

“My children really love it,” she told Murondoro. “Even when I’m not at home they use it to listen to Ikizu Scripture with their friends.” Many listening groups report that neighbours show great interest and ask where they can get something like it.

“She told the project team, ‘You need to come back,’ ” Murondoro said. “ ‘You need to come and sell these audio Scriptures in my village.’ “

This story was written for SIL Tanzania by:

Kenny Grindall (Communications Coordinator)

SIL International is a global partner among academic and professional organisations which offer language development services. SIL works alongside speakers of more than 1,700 languages in over 100 countries. Active in Tanzania since 1989, the organization makes its services available to all without regard to religious belief, political ideology, gender, race or ethnolinguistic background.