Translating the Bible in 40 Weeks? Dan Kramer on Bible Translation Methods

Of the world’s 7,100 languages, less than ten percent have a complete, written Bible. The Great Commission depends on translations into the heart languages of the lost. How can we get Scripture into the remaining languages without waiting for English-speaking experts in Greek and Hebrew to learn multiple foreign languages—or, is speeding up the process the wrong idea altogether?

We dive deep this week with Dan Kramer of Wycliffe Associates who developed the MAST (Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation) methodology that is rapidly increasing the speed of translation across the globe, resulting in 254 complete New Testament translations.

Dan Kramer worked for thirteen years in the field of education as faculty at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. He came to Wycliffe Associates in 2009 to create an English program. Within three years, the program spanned across 25 countries. Today, Dan leads a staff of more than 60 people to spread of MAST reach the entire globe aside from a handful of nations, reaching into oral language groups, deaf and eventually deaf/blind populations. Dan resides in Orlando, Florida, with his wife Holly, and they have six children.

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6 thoughts on “Translating the Bible in 40 Weeks? Dan Kramer on Bible Translation Methods

  1. I have been writing a blog series on the dangers of the MAST method used by Wycliffe Associates. This is a CRISIS and I encourage people to start with the first blog in my series: If your goal is to speed up translation support The Seed Company instead.
    It is repeated quite often at the Wycliffe Associate banquets, the same banquets that I used to speak at, that someone who already speaks the language being translated and knows his own culture would be miles ahead of a foreigner coming in and learning the language. That statement simply isn’t accurate. Though a national speaks his language, in many cases he doesn’t know the Bible. And even if he knows his language it doesn’t mean he is fully proficient in that language. The average English-speaking American commonly uses about 3,000 words, but there are over 171,000 words in current use in the English language. The basic proficiency that a typical person has with their native language leads to using words like “car” or “plane,” because the typical person doesn’t need to know that particular car is a Fiat 500x, or that particular plane is a Cessna 120.

  2. I suppose the Bible translation experts will have to decide this issue. The flip side of Grace’s argument is, is it better to get the Word into the hands of more people sooner? The alternative is to see many more people pass into eternity without having any idea of Christ and His love and forgiveness. I don’t presume to give an answer to the issue, but I do believe there are two sides to it.

  3. I am the daughter of Grace L. Fabian (see comment above). I have a facebook page I’ve created now called Killing Translation to highlight the many slips and falls of Wycliffe Associates. Bible translation cannot be done quickly and accurately. I would argue with David Shaw that if the concern is getting the good news to people sooner then evangelism should be your tool. If getting accurate translations is your concern then avoid Wycliffe Associates and support Wycliffe Bible Translators, two separate organizations.

  4. I am a former volunteer with both Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT) and Wycliffe Associates (WA). I was fortunate to provide technology support to The Seed Company as well. It is very disturbing to read the comments of Ms. Fabian and her daughter. As a Christian believer, the Creator God is able to do everything, and for Him, nothing is impossible. I first became involved in Bible translation in Nigeria in 2014. I saw local, native-language speaking men and women attempt to translate a few chapters of the Book of Luke during a 3 week workshop. I then visited Zambia in 2015 to help facilitate one of the first workshops using the 8-step MAST methodology. During a two week workshop, I personally worked with 4 young men. We produced a draft of 12 chapters of the Book of Luke as well as the Book of James. The MAST method works! Four of the steps involve checking for accuracy as well as naturalism. I have since attended 5 other workshops. In each, local, native-language speaking men and women were successful in translating the Word of God into written versions for their people groups. The conflict between WBT and WA is not good for worldwide Bible translation efforts. Comments such as those by Ms. Fabian and her daughter are also very damaging to getting the Word of God to those who have never heard or read of God’s love for them. If you doubt the effectiveness of the MAST methodology, I would encourage you to attend a MAST workshop.

  5. John Streeter, thanks for your comments. I would love to go to a MAST process but since I’m not an expert in judging the accuracy I don’t think I should judge. There are people who are experts and they did go to a MAST workshop and this is their report: This isn’t my opinion- this is the opinion of hundred of Bible translators who can’t say anything publicly because WBT has forced them to remain silent. It is not my writing a comment on the bottom of a podcast that is ‘damaging’. It is WA promoting and teaching a process that will result in inaccurate translations that will result in cults, and years of re-doing mistakes. The Message version of the English Bible is criticized by many as only a paraphrase yet Eugene Peterson worked for 10 years from the original Hebrew and Greek and people still won’t acknowledge that it’s a translation. But Wycliffe Associates decides to stop everything they were doing to suddenly become a Bible translation organization and we’re supposed to believe that they can do ‘translations’ with only two weeks of training and complete those translations in a matter of weeks and months? The fact that they call them translations and not drafts means that we hold them to a different standard than Eugene Peterson with years of study. Check out my F B page called Killing Translation.

    1. Dietlinde, thank you for addressing my comment. You however pointed me to an article that is over FIVE years old. A lot has changed in the world of Bible translation, and technology used for it in that time. You also made an erroneous statement about Wycliffe Associates “dropping everything”. It is true that WA quit funding translation projects by WBT due to the “Son of God” issue, not due to the MAST program. There are many organizations receiving support from WA including the Bible translators in Ethiopia. It is also inaccurate to state these translation products as producing “translations”. After a series of DRAFTS are produced at a MAST workshop, local community leaders and leaders of larger groups (and even consultants) are asked to review and improve the DRAFTS before being certified as “translations”. This is much of what is done in the months (and years) after the initial MAST workshop efforts. May you and Mr. Peterson be Blessed without tearing down the efforts of the brave men and women, sometimes giving their lives, to promote the distribution of God’s Word to those millions of people without a verse of scripture in their heart languages. Oh, and I don’t “do” Facebook.

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