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Sep 19, 2005

Bantu Language Clusters

Working in Language Clusters

bantumaplo.jpgBantu languages of East Africa
(click to enlarge)
There are 500 languages in the Bantu family of languages spoken by about 200 million Africans spread out from the equator to South Africa. Of these, approximately 14 million individuals speak one of 250 languages without the Scriptures.

To help achieve Vision 2025 with greater speed, efficiency, and quality new strategies are being adopted, including a language family strategy. This involves working in language clusters within the Bantu language family.

What is a Cluster?

A language program cluster can be defined as two or more language groups (often closely related) who will work together with a shared language development strategy, sharing personnel and resources. Languages may be grouped together to form a cluster based on:

  • linguistic relatedness
  • social relationships
  • geographic proximity
  • number of churches/denominations working among the same languages

The Cluster Team

A team approach is an essential element of the strategy. Most likely, the cluster approach will not be applied to all the languages of Tanzania and Uganda but where it is applied, it will require working together as a team. By team, we are not referring to a team that addresses the needs of a particular language but a bigger team – a cluster team - that addresses the needs of a cluster. The team members share the responsibility for all of the languages in the cluster, working as part of the larger team. Initial orientation and team development work is vital, including:

  • developing a sense of shared ownership
  • mutual appreciation of each others gifts and skills
  • sharing decision-making
  • honoring one another

Mara groupPartnership means teamwork. (Mara, Tanzania)
The Vision

The vision for a Bantu Cluster initiative grew out of a desire of four organizations to see Scriptures available to the approximately 250 Bantu language communities that do not have Scriptures in their heart languages (mother-tongue). This can only be accomplished through a partnership of stakeholders working together to develop language program strategies and resources that take advantage of Bantu linguistic and cultural similarities.

The Strategy

In Tanzania, one of the first cluster projects began in the Mbeya Region. In 2006 a second cluster project began in the Mara Region of Tanzania. In 2010 a third cluster project began in the Katavi Region of Tanzania. Through these projects experience is being gained in joint planning and decision-making with partners, as well as exploring the benefits of working in multi-language projects of Bantu languages, which share linguistic and cultural similarities

Find out more on Bantu Languages: Statistics
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