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By Hannah Weiand

Hannah is a Wycliffe USA intern, attending Oral Roberts University. She will graduate with a degree in writing in May 2015.

a woman reads her Bible to her friend

Photo credit: Marc Ewell

Here at Wycliffe Bible Translators, we believe everyone needs the Bible in a language they can clearly understand. Well-meaning people sometimes ask, “Why not just teach people English?” Well, that would be like asking a native English speaker, “Why not just teach you Latin?”

It sounds funny put that way, but before the late 14th century, when John Wycliffe and others translated the Bible into English for the first time from Latin, that’s exactly what English speakers had to do if they wanted to read the Bible.

John Wycliffe believed the common person should be able to read and understand the Bible in their own language. But at that time in history, many people thought English was a vulgar language, unfit for God and his holy Word. So when Wycliffe and others translated the Bible, many church leaders were angry. Years after John Wycliffe died, they were still so angry that they dug up his bones to burn and destroy them. And they took one of his followers, John Huss, and burned him at the stake for telling people that everyone should be able to read the Bible in their own language.

Today, thanks to the sacrifices of John Wycliffe, John Huss and others, we can read the Bible in our own language. And we believe other language groups around the world should be able to have that opportunity too.

When Wycliffe Bible Translator’s founder, Cameron Townsend, went to Guatemala to sell Spanish Bibles in 1917 — before he ever started thinking about Bible translation — a number of people asked him why God didn’t speak their language. Cam was troubled to learn that they couldn’t clearly understand the Bible in Spanish. Their need inspired him translate the New Testament into Cakchiquel, and ultimately, to found Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Photo credit: Elyse Patten

Photo credit: Elyse Patten

That’s why we think Bible translation is so important — because we want people to fully understand what God is saying. When people learn a new language, they usually don’t understand it as well as their first language, so it’s difficult to fully grasp the power and the meaning of the Bible in that language.

Bible translation is important because of the way it transforms people’s lives when they can clearly understand God’s Word. It’s not just about being able to read the Bible – it’s about being able to connect with what it says. Having the Bible in their own language allows people from around the world to make that connection.

This post is part of our Wycliffe 101 series. Click here to read the previous post, or here to start at the beginning.

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This story was originally featured at Mission Network News.

What if you showed up to your first day of school and couldn’t understand what you were supposed to learn because your teacher was speaking a foreign language?

Maybe that was your experience. Maybe it wasn’t.

But for thousands of children in marginalized communities, education can be a struggle when they have to learn school material through a new language.

That’s why Greg and Diane Dekker with Wycliffe Bible Translators conduct Multilingual Education (MLE). Diane explains, “Multilingual education begins with the learner’s first language–the language they first learn to speak at home–and helps them learn the curriculum content in school in that language. Then it adds other languages that they need to learn, like perhaps the national language or English in addition.”

And just so children don’t get overwhelmed, Diane says, “[It] plans for introducing the other languages in a progressive manner. They’re learning one thing at a time, step-by-step, rather than immersing children in languages that they do not know.”

Why is it so important? “There is this big gap between English language learners and their achievement in school, and mother-tongue speakers of English and their achievement in school,” Diane says. “Sometimes that is blamed on other issues, but really if we create a scenario where these kids who don’t speak English as a mother tongue can actually learn through their mother tongue, then it helps them learn English better.”

Click here to read the rest of this story from Mission Network News.

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