Working together to nourish language communities

By Deb Fox  |  Wycliffe Today  Christmas Edition 2023 |

Dr Michel Kenmogne has been the Executive Director of SIL International since 2016. He is from Cameroon and is the first non-Western person to fill the role. Michel’s experience as someone from a minority language group has given him insights into how we can support and equip translation projects. On his way home from the SIL Connect –Pacific meetings in Papua New Guinea, Michel travelled via Kangaroo Ground in Melbourne to speak with Wycliffe Australia and SIL Australia. Michel shared with great emotion about the impact that having the Bible and other literature available in his own language has made in his own life:

I myself am a speaker of a minority language. I know what it means to have one’s language acknowledged, put on the map and translated into Scripture. It enables people to feel as if they are sharing in equal dignity with other peoples around the world.

Michel encouraged everyone that working together as close organisational partners is continuing to be a blessing to the 1635 language projects with SIL involvement currently underway throughout the world. While Michel says that trained expatriate translation facilitators and advisors will still be required to support the work of minority language projects, local mother-tongue translators are increasingly the primary implementers. He also said that a focus on greater localisation is creating pathways for engaging with churches and establishing more projects for languages still without any translated Scripture:

Our language engagement is growing as a result of projects becoming more localised in many contexts. Local staff are receiving greater training opportunities to help programs become more self-sustaining. SIL’s initiative to become ‘locally rooted’ is not just about participating in a country as a foreign intervention but really seeking to be connected to the local church, to embrace the local culture, governance and whatever enables us to be seen as a natural expression of the locale in that context. We need to recognise that, theologically, it doesn’t make sense for organisations involved in the mission of God to not have an effective relationship with the Church.

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No longer outsiders

By Sharna Steinert  |  Wycliffe Today Christmas 2023  | 


Did you know that approximately 30% of the population in Victoria was born in another country? The term used to describe these people living outside of their homeland is ‘diaspora’. While some diaspora communities in Australia have literature and resources, most diaspora communities have few or no resources available to them in their own language. 

In 2021, SIL Australia (SILA), Wycliffe Australia’s partner in language and culture training, conducted a research project to identify diaspora communities in the greater Melbourne area. The aim was to find communities that might be interested in partnering to develop resources in their languages. 

SILA’s Principal Executive Officer, Graham Scott, and Operations Manager, Jack Hibbard, met with a community leader in the Dandenong area from the Hazaragi diaspora language group. This leader questioned them about their intentions, asking, ‘What do you get out of this?’ Graham and Jack explained the purpose of the project and their motivation for getting to know and come alongside the community if they were interested in developing their language. The man became less suspicious and more interested, inviting them to attend ‘Nowruz’, the Persian New Year celebration in Dandenong. 

In March 2022, the Flourishing Communities team was able to hold a stall at Nowruz. They printed and distributed books in Hazaragi and two neighbouring languages, along with some New Testaments in another related language. The books were incredibly popular, with people of all ages requesting copies then sending their friends to get copies of their own! The team listened to stories and answered many questions about why they, as outsiders, were so interested in their languages.

In addition to the resources shared at the festival, members from the Hazara community, along with leaders from several other language groups SILA has been building relationships with, recently received language development training. SILA and SIL Pacific held the first phase of the ‘Language and Identity Journey’ workshop in September. It led participants through a series of activities to evaluate a language community’s current situation and consider actions to help preserve and grow their language resources in Australia. 

SILA continues to develop a relationship with the Hazara community, again attending Nowruz in 2023. The Hazara community are now keen to progress to Phase 2 of the Language and Identity Journey course. We look forward to the continued partnership with the Hazara and encouraging other diaspora communities in the area in their language development goals. It is a joy to see these communities learning how to flourish in the languages that they value the most and start feeling more connected in the place they now call home.

MORE: Read more about Flourishing Communities at

Thanks for your patience...

Waiting is hard, isn't it. But imagine waiting 2000 years for Scripture in your language! Thanks for your patience. And thanks for your generous support which will help bring the long wait to an end...