Katavi Bible Translation and Language Development

In 1999 a group of language surveyors were researching the local languages spoken in the west of Tanzania when they met Pastor Kassanda, a man with a vision. Kassanda had a heart for serving the people of his region, but believed that without the Bible in their local languages it was very difficult for the communities to grow in their faith.

Eleven years later and his dream started to become a reality as church leaders met together with language experts from around the world to plan to work together to see Bible translation begin for those communities of Katavi Region who had no Scripture in their language.

Katavi Region is located in the west of Tanzania, and is home to over 500,000 people, including speakers of the Bende and Pimbwe languages. While other larger groups like the Fipa and Sukuma have some access to Scripture in their languages, the Bende and Pimbwe communities, who live mostly in rural parts of the Region, have never had the Bible or any other written materials in their languages.

Now the Katavi Bible translation and Literacy project, comprising a cross-cultural team from four different countries, has come alongside these language communities, starting to analyse their languages linguistically and devise intuitive alphabets that are easy to read and write. Once this step is complete, Bende and Pimbwe translators will join the team, working alongside international experts in translation and the biblical texts to write the first ever portions of Scripture in their languages.

"When the people have the Bible in their own language, they'll realise that God knows them." This was the opinion of a Bende participant at one of the initial language analysis workshops. The goal of Pastor Kassanda, the church leaders in Katavi, and the cross-cultural team working full-time in the Bible translation project, is that every community in the region would have access to the Bible in their local language and that they would know that God knows and loves them.

Jul 18, 2019

Positive impact of new oral translation work

Written by SIL Tanzania Communications

Inyonga, Tanzania - "Sharing God seems easy now, with Scripture recorded in my language." A Konongo speaker, named Lightness, took part in an Bible story-ing workshop. She has recordings on her phone, and plays them in the market. "A lot of women and children gather," she adds, "and they enjoy listening." Lightness has learned to narrate Bible stories orally, and lead group studies in her village. Meanwhile the new Konongo translation project works hard, encouraged by such early impact...

Mar 20, 2019

New oral translation project begins in Ruwila community

Written by SIL Tanzania Communications

The Ruwila language community has begun translation work as part of the Katavi Cluster Project. After initial community partner planning meetings, the team decided to use Render, an innovative computer software for oral translation. Nine Ruwila speakers took part in a weeks-long workshop training for the task ahead...

Jun 20, 2016

"Let them hear these books!"

Written by SIL Tanzania Communications

Local translators have completed audio recordings of Ruth and Jonah in the Bende and Pimbwe languages. When they began to play the recordings for people, the community elders reacted strongly...

Mar 14, 2016

Pimbwe community rallies to record audio Scriptures

Written by SIL Tanzania Communications


Translation of Jonah and Ruth into Pimbwe was completed. The team had recruited help from the community to make audio recordings of both books. But farming season had arrived, and now many of those voices could not be found...

Oct 29, 2015

Excitement about Mother Tongue materials

Written by Karin Y.


In May we printed the first booklets in Bende - A6 booklets with pictures and some text, some of them just in Bende and Swahili, others in Bende, Swahili and English. Recently we had some Bende speakers in the office. I showed them the booklets and they were obviously excited. They also loved the Bende calendar and all three of them bought one at the end of their visit. Even though half the year was already up, they still didn't want to miss out on the opportunity of having a calendar with proverbs in their mother tongue and pictures of themselves and people they know.

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