Bible Translation, Literacy Development in Ivory Coast Go Hand-in-Hand

The Bible Society in Côte d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast) is currently engaged in translation work that is going hand-in-hand with literacy development.

The Bible Society in Africa's Ivory Coast is currently engaged in translation work that is going hand-in-hand with literacy development.

"With the complete Bible having been translated into only two of the 78 languages in the Ivory Coast, the Bible Society in the Ivory Coast is strongly aware of the need to set ambitious targets for its translation program," the United Bible Societies (UBS) reported this month. The international fellowship of Bible Societies invests around CFA Fr15 million (US$30,000) each year.

However, UBS noted that for languages whose speakers lack literacy skills, simply providing a translation is not enough. For this reason, UBS reports that translation of the Bible into the Akyé language has gone hand-in-hand with literacy development.

According to UBS, Akyé, or Attié, is spoken by around 381,000 people in the Ivory Coast -- most of which live in Abidjan or one of its suburbs.

In Anyama, around 15 km (10 miles) north-east of the capital, local churches have for some years been working with the Bible Society to ensure that, when the complete Akyé Bible is launched, members of the congregation who speak this language will be able to read it for themselves.

UBS reports that overall literacy among Akyé speakers is at the moment no more than five percent.

According to the fellowship, the current initiative stretches back some years. Although the Akyé New Testament was launched in 1995, even before then the 15 Methodist churches in Anyama were holding Akyé literacy classes. At each church, one person was trained to teach others.

Currently, classes run throughout the year, and students’ progress is monitored with regular tests. These reportedly take the form of a competition between the different churches in which students either read and then explain a passage from the Akyé New Testament or write down a passage dictated from it.

In January, staff from the Bible Society had the opportunity to see for themselves how successful this approach has been. According to UBS, the staff was particularly pleased to see that young Akyé speakers were very enthusiastic about improving their literacy skills. Moreover, these young people were enjoying the strong support of their parents and other older people, many of whom attend the competitions, UBS reported.

This commitment to literacy development will ensure that, as the Bible Society writes in its ‘mission statement’ for translation, Akyé speakers will have access to God’s Word in a language “which everyone in the community can understand and accept”.