Translation work completed on world’s first Tokelauan Bible

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The world’s first Bible in Tokelauan is being prepared for publication after the final verse of the new work was translated recently

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The world’s first Bible in Tokelauan is being prepared for publication after the final verse of the new work was translated last Wednesday (10 July).

It marks the culmination of more than 23 years of work by a team of translators led by head translator Ioane Teao.

The final check of the translation was carried out by Ioane Teao and Bible Society Translations Director Dr Stephen Pattemore.

Tokelauan is a Polynesian language spoken in Tokelau, on Swains Island in American Samoa, and parts of northern New Zealand.

“We’re very pleased we’ve come to this part of the project,” said Ioane, who has been on board since the project’s genesis.

The Tokelauan Bible realises the joint effort of numerous Tokelauan churches and community groups who have contributed, many of whom Ioane and others consulted over the six years it took before the project could officially start.

One major hurdle to writing a Tokelauan Bible translation was that Ioane, like all Tokelauans in his generation, had learned Tokelauan as an oral language.

That meant that at school he and his peers were taught English grammar, but not Tokelauan grammar.

So before Ioane could approach the translation, he had to learn how to write in his mother tongue.

According to the New Zealand Bible Society, the first ever Bible in Tokelauan will be a major benchmark not just for Tokelauan Christians, but also for the Tokelauan language.

“I think it’s going to be quite valuable for Tokelau, not only from the point of the spiritual life of the people but also for sustaining the language,” said Ioane.

“In many cultures, the Bible became the mainstay for the language. I think this book will become the foundation of the language.”

The launch of the Bible in Tokelauan is scheduled to take place early in 2021, after further work is carried out to check for language style and consistency.

This news story was first published on Anglican Communion News Service on 19 July 2019 and is based on a report by Anglican Taonga.

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