“They were surprised to hear us reading in Jita, so they came closer…”

Mara Region, Tanzania —

Translators recently completed a draft of the Gospel of Mark in the Jita language, one of eight teams in the Mara Cluster Project in northern Tanzania. Magesa Kejire and Neema Ndaro, the Jita translators, then took their manuscript to six villages to get the community’s help in checking their work.

“In every village, groups of children came by,” said Magesa. “First they got curious about what was happening. They were surprised when they heard us reading in Jita, so they came closer and sat down.”

Together with the adults who were part of the testing group, the children heard Mark’s Gospel being read in their own language. They also listened closely to the group’s discussion, as the translators asked questions to know how clearly each person had understood the text.

“The kids got very much involved,” Magesa added, “especially those between about six and eight years old.” During the tests, the translators included the children in the discussion, asking them what they thought, especially if they felt the translation was clear or not.

“This was not the first time,” said Magesa. “Children often come by and get involved in the conversations. But it keeps surprising us how eager and excited they are to hear the Gospel in Jita and to interact with it. They say to us, ‘That is our language, so we should be able to learn to read and write Jita, too!’ ”

Opportunities abound for the Jita community to advance literacy at every age level. The team recently published and printed a Jita grammar written in Swahili, the language of wider communication in Tanzania. They also reprinted the Jita language books of Ruth and Jonah, having sold out their existing copies.

“We just held three literacy workshops in the area,” said Magesa, “thanks to our partnership with local churches. In coming months, we are ready to do training for people who can then lead reading groups.”

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.