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Bible translators are turning to tablets for work in volatile regions

Wycliffe Associates is now providing mother-tongue Bible translators with computer tablets in an effort to give translators a safe and efficient way to work on Scripture translation projects in cultures that are antagonistic toward Christianity.

Tablet computers enable Bible translators to work discreetly and safely, which is critical in areas where persecution of Christians is intense—and where even owning a Bible can be illegal.

“A Bible in their hands is like a target on their backs,” says Bruce Smith, President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates. “Tablets are essential equipment for translators working in difficult, dangerous places.”

In a project called Tablets for National Translators (TNTs), Wycliffe Associates is providing Bible translators with tablets that have been fully loaded with translation software and essential apps. Not only does the technology contribute to the personal safety of Bible translators, but it also increases their efficiency because translators are no longer required to share one computer.

“There can be dozens of translators working on a single translation of the Bible, but if they all have to share a single computer, there’s soon a terrible data input logjam,” Smith says. “The process is painfully slow—until we provide these tablets for national translators.”

The projects are essential to the organization’s MAST (Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation) program, a pioneering new method of translating books of the Bible in parallel. The first MAST program was tested in 2014, when 13 mother-tongue translators translated and checked a draft of half the New Testament in two months. Wycliffe Associates estimates that each MAST event requires at least 5 and sometimes as many as 20 tablets.

The organization has set a goal of launching 500 new language projects in 2016 using MAST, which will require as many as 2,500 tablets for participating Bible translators.

“If we provide the incredible new technology of tablets for national translators,” Smith says, “we can dramatically speed up their work—and bring the Scriptures to life for millions upon millions of people.”

The cost of each tablet, fully loaded with translation software and apps, is $300. Generous friends of Wycliffe Associates have committed to give to Wycliffe Associates’ Tablets for National Translators Challenge Fund that will double every dollar given up to $97,550.

Of the 6,901 languages spoken in the world, 3,377 languages still need a translation project started, and 2,195 languages now have a Bible translation in progress.

Currently Wycliffe Associates is accelerating the work of Bible translation in 75 countries.