Wycliffe Bible Translators was founded in 1942 by William Cameron Townsend. Prior to that time he had served as a missionary to the Cakchiquel Indians in Guatemala. As he worked with the Indians, Townsend realized that not only could the natives not read the Spanish Bibles he brought with him, but they didn’t even have a written form of their own language!
He decided to live among the Cakchiquels so he could learn their complex language. He created an alphabet for it. After analyzing the grammar, he translated the New Testament into their language. It was a remarkable achievement, as he completed this in just ten years! The completion of their New Testament was the beginning of a worldwide movement.
He became concerned about other minority language groups who also did not have Bibles in their own language and opened Camp Wycliffe in Arkansas in 1934. Here he planned to train people in basic linguistics and translation methods. In 1942 Townsend founded Wycliffe Bible Translators to help reach every people group with Scripture in their language. The name honored John Wycliffe, who completed the first European translation of the entire English Bible in 1382.
In the beginning only a few students enrolled in the program at Camp Wycliffe. Their first endeavor was in Mexico, which continued successfully for many years. From this small beginning it grew into a worldwide ministry. Currently it includes the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), Wycliffe Bible Translators, Wycliffe Associates, and the technical department of SIL known as JAARS.
In 2014 it was determined that more than 1,300 languages now have access to the New Testament and some portions of Scripture in their language. Wycliffe Bible Translators has committed to a goal that by the year 2025, there will be Bible translation in progress in every language still needing it.
Below are statements made on the Wycliffe Bible Translators website concerning the progress and further need for translation efforts:
* Almost 7,000 languages are known to be in use today.
* 500 languages have the completed translated Bible.
* About 180 million people need Bible translation to begin in their language.
* More than 1,800 languages still need a Bible translation project to begin.
* More than 2,300 languages across 131 countries have active translation and linguistic development work happening right now.
THERE IS MUCH WORK TO BE DONE!
The Ethnologue--Languages of the World is an encyclopedic reference publication that catalogues the world's known living languages. The exact number of unwritten languages is hard to determine, because languages are dynamic, variable and always changing. And, it is difficult to determine if an existing writing system is actually widely used. There may be an alphabet, but there may not be many people who are literate and using it. In their 17th Edition, Ethnologue stated they had data to indicate that 696 languages were unwritten, with an approximate 2,800 languages for which they had no data.
For additional information on this Wycliffe Bible Translators, see www.wycliffe.org/.