…that’s the distance, according to Google, between where we lived in Nairobi to the town where we live now. Oh, and that’s the precise distance…if you walked the whole way. According to Google, it would take 43 days (24 hours straight) and 15 hours to walk the whole distance. Their directions include a caution that there may be areas without sidewalks…and there could be some tolls .
We contemplated driving this several times before we made our move. At first, it seemed like an easier way to transport our luggage. In the end, it just got too complicated with boarder crossings, multiple transit visas, car insurance for every country, and the possibility that we wouldn’t be able to import our Kenyan car into South Africa. Alas, it was such an interesting idea in our minds, and I had a whole plan for visiting projects the whole way down and blogging about them. Instead we just pasted over by air–faster but not nearly as interesting.
Map of the Bantu expansion – created by Mark Dingemanse
This journey has been done, and it was done before the age of airplanes and cars. The Bantu peoples of Africa moved from the areas of modern-day Nigeria and Cameroon east and south to modern-day Kenya and down to South Africa. The Bantu migration took about 1000 years. Their language and cultures changed along the way, creating a large group of related Bantu languages and a collection of distinct peoples with some similar and shared cultural characteristics.
Today, there are more than 500 different Bantu languages spoken by more than 200 million Africans in 17 African countries spanning from the equator to South Africa. About 250 of these languages have no scripture representing about 14 million people. Most of the Bantu languages without scripture have not been written down. Many remaining without scripture are located in Tanzania and Uganda. Learn more about Bantu language projects in Tanzania and Uganda.
The needs for scripture translation into Bantu languages extend beyond Tanzania and Uganda into Kenya, Congo, Angola, Mozambique as well as other countries. A team has been working on tools to help scripture translation projects in all these languages. One tool, the Bantu Orthography Manual, seeks to provide some standardization to alphabet creation in Bantu languages that have not been written. A Bantu literacy tool assists with the creation of Bantu literacy primers. Another tool, PTEST, was developed to assist with the analysis of the sounds in Bantu languages. Each of these tools is increasing the speed at which scripture translations can be made available to Bantu languages.
This macro approach to scripture translation and language development was spurred in part by Vision 2025– a vision to see a Bible translation program in progress in every language still needing one by the year 2025.