Starting Out


If you think you might like to translate the Bible into another language and you are wondering how to get from where you are now into that work here are some suggestions that may help.

A. If you haven't already started, begin now to pray.

1. Open your heart before the Lord to receive His guidance.
2. Commit yourself completely to Him and to His will for you. Ask the Lord to fully rule your life. Bible translation demands a long-term commitment which can withstand periods of disappointment and can find joy in years of careful research. Only a God-given determination to see the job through makes the task successful and joyful.
3. Ask God to help you understand the reality of Bible translation and whether your gifts and personality match the real task.

B. Understand yourself.

1. Become thoroughly acquainted with your aptitudes and spiritual gifts.

a. Take a language aptitude test. We recommend the Modern Language Aptitude Test. This test can be administered at many college/university language or linguistic departments. Glenn Kerr at Bibles International in Grand Rapids will administer this for you if you are in the area. Others may be near you.

This test is not a pass/fail kind of test. It simply indicates the degree of aptitude one has for successfully acquiring and using a second language. Usually, other factors aside, raw scores under 30 indicate the individual will have great difficulty acquiring and using a second language. Those whose scores fall in this category should not be discouraged, but recognize they will likely find fulfillment and fruitfulness in some kind of ministry that does not require learning a second language. Scores between 30 and 80 indicate various degrees of success in learning and speaking a second language. Scores between 80 and 99 are typical of those who have found it relatively easy to handle several second languages successfully. A person who considers Bible translation should have a score in the 90's, though language aptitude is not the only criterion for determining how successful one will be as a translator.

Once you have taken the test, contact Bibles International concerning its evaluation.

Factors other than language aptitude can well affect the degree of success one experiences in attempted Bible translation work.  Those factors include desire, strength of will, patient perseverance, and even love.  Nevertheless, it does make sense to attempt to do work for which God has fitted you.

b.  Review your interest and grades earned in subjects such as Mathematics, English grammar, English literature, speech, and any other communications courses.  Significant interest and good grades in these disciplines should indicate some capacities that ought to correlate with the language aptitude score.

2.  Carefully, and with total honesty, review the depth of your commitment to Jesus Christ and to His service.  Those who, out of love for Him and love for people, enter Bible translation work find themselves squarely in the middle of invading Satan's territory.  The battle can be intense.  Indicators of the kind of commitment that succeeds in such battles include meaningful and regular times of fellowship with Jesus Christ through meditating on His Word and in prayer.  They include enjoyable and useful fellowship with His church and fruitful service in that church.  They include obedience to other plain commands of our Savior as revealed in the Scriptures.  They include an intense interest in understanding the Bible for one's own sake and for the sake of sharing it with others. The final question is often this, "Just how badly do I really want to please God?"

3.  Also take a good look at your own interest in the Bible.  Do you enjoy reading it?  Studying it?  Have you learned how to understand it, interpret it, and even to teach its contents to others?  Do you respect it as God's communication to all people?  Can you approach it as the only fully dependable resource of information about God and life? "Yes" answers to these questions are important to a good future in translation work. If the answer is "No," are you preparing to take a course of studies to correct the deficiencies?

4.  Take a tour through the kinds of things in which your mind is interested.  Those who find they fully enjoy Bible translation work, also typically enjoy solving puzzles, unraveling knotty problems, reading who-done-its, and music - partly because they have a particularly good auditory capacity.

C. Acquire the academic and practical skills necessary to good translation work.

(Please see additional pages, "Academic Training necessary for Text Production Personnel," and "Recommendations on Where to Train")

1.  Get some experience in translating from some other language into English.  A good way to do this is to take Seminary courses in Greek Exegesis and Hebrew Exegesis.

2.  Acquire a second language of your own.  If you have not already done this in junior high or senior high school, do it now.

3.  Take advantage of a field experience to acquire a speaking knowledge of another language. A good program is ARRIBA!, a year's accredited study and ministry in Ecuador under the joint sponsorship of Baptist Mid-Missions and Faith Baptist Bible College. Contact Baptist Mid-Missions for more information about this program. Many universities include overseas modules in their language programs. 

4.  Visit a Bible translator on furlough to learn from him what his daily life and translation activities are really like.

5.  Visit a Bible translator on site.  Be prepared to assist in clerical duties while you are observing what really goes on.  At certain times, it is possible to visit the Bibles International office in order to sit in as an observer while one of our consultants works with a translator going over his draft.  This can give some worthwhile observation although it is not observing the actual translation process.

D.  Apply to a mission agency which encourages Bible translation ministry.

For instance, Baptist Mid-Missions, the parent organization of Bibles International, has openings for Bible translators on church-planting teams.  Bibles International also has openings for members of the support team of translation and literacy consultants, clerical workers, managers, public relations people, journalists, fund-raising persons, bookkeepers and accountants, and people capable in word processing, desk top publishing, and systems analysis. Please consider the material you have read, and may God direct you in your search for his purpose in your life.

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