Language ownership ‘fills up the soul’
By Kathy Dadd | Wycliffe Today October 2019
Matjarra is an Aboriginal translator passionate about translating the New Testament into her clan’s own Yolngu language – Liyagawumirr. She wants Scripture available in her own language because it is not always appropriate to use another clan’s language, especially at sacred events like funerals. Matjarra shares why this project is so important:
English is not our first language. We have a lot of people who don’t know how to read the Bible or don’t understand it in an English context. When I became a Christian, I saw that need so I wanted to become a translator. This is for our new generation growing up, and for everyone in the community. We’re doing this Bible translating so they can read in our own language, so they can understand more about God.
Another Aboriginal translator was checking the book of Mark when she experienced firsthand the transformative effect of God speaking through his word in her own language:
Yesterday, we read those words of the Bible in my language, and they filled up my soul. I wasn’t even hungry for any food for the rest of the day!
I used to think that if the Bible was available in a language that someone understands, then they had access to God’s Word – but it’s not quite that simple. In the Yolngu area in Arnhem Land, for example, there is a network of related languages. Although they are not all mutually intelligible, most people can speak the largest language. However, that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to use that language on all occasions. It’s not everyone’s language to use, it belongs to a particular clan. So even though the New Testament is available in the largest Yolngu language, that doesn’t mean everyone has full access to it.