Challenges of New Technology

For our five translation projects in Chad, the translation process has been like climbing a tall mountain, as they have faced many difficulties along the way. But for three of those projects, the summit of that mountain is now in sight, as they are now in the quality checking stage – one of the last stages before preparing the text for printing.

For years, our Chadian projects have used electronic keyboards, called AlphaSmarts, to type up their translations. As the projects moved toward quality checking, we realized we would need a more efficient system. But as we sought to upgrade the technology, we faced several new obstacles to overcome.

Obstacle #1: Lack of electricity. With 96% of Chad’s population lacking access to electricity[1], using and maintaining a computer can be very difficult. The solution to this difficulty was solar-powered chargers, which make it possible for the translators to use the computers every day, even if they have no access to an electrical outlet.

Obstacle #2: Converting the software. The translated texts were being imported into Microsoft Word, but this program is not designed to meet the specific needs of Bible translation. Thankfully, there is now a special software program called Paratext (see "Just One Click Away"), created specifically for making and editing Bible translations. It has many useful tools and features to help the translators work more efficiently.

However, Microsoft Word and Paratext use different formatting, so the Word documents had to be re-formatted before importing them into Paratext. With each project having translated hundreds of pages of text, it seemed like a huge job! With the help of several volunteers, however, and by using a series of macros (automated computer keystrokes), the hardest parts of the work became easier. Within a few months, all the translation projects in Chad were fully converted to Paratext.

Obstacle #3: Computer training. Although most of our translators had never used a computer before, they had to learn not only basic computer skills, they also had to learn to use the new Paratext software. They were a little apprehensive as they faced these new skills, but they were eager to learn, and they continue to make progress in their computer skills.

Obstacle #4: Usage and maintenance. As the translation teams move forward with using the new equipment, problems arise from time to time. For example, one team found their solar charger was faulty, while another team had their hard drive stolen. Sometimes the teams have felt discouraged by these setbacks, but the Lord has helped us find solutions to each difficulty.


These are just a few of the obstacles the teams have faced as they get used to this new technology. Undoubtedly, we will face more difficulties as we continue to move these projects toward completion, but the gains in using the new software make the efforts to overcome the obstacles worth it. The Lord will be with us every step of the way, guiding us through the mountains and through the valleys.