The Bible is being translated into !Xun and Khwedam for the San communities at Platfontein in the Northern Cape. The project, spearheaded by the Bible Society, is expected to be completed within a decade.

Masejane Baloyi from the Bible Society says it is comfortable for people to pray and read the bible in their own languages.

“It’s so comfortable when you pray in your own language; you read the bible in your own language. That’s why we as the Bible Society would want each and every one to have the word of God in his or her own language, in his preferred format; so that’s what we are trying in SA.”

It’s a project of biblical proportions. Two decades ago, the San languages could not be written down. Now; they’re being translated into one of the most sold books in the world. !Xun translations started in 2018 and this week; conversion to Khwedam got under way.

Zeke Shiwarra, a Khwedam Platfontein bible translator, says the bible will make it easier for the language to be written.

“This bible will make it easier for the language to be written. We are broadening our vocabulary because there is no word that we are learning to translate and, in the end, everyone will learn to write and read the language.”

Translations will be done straight from Hebrews. The team of eight Khwedam translators include skills drawn from Botswana. Splash Moronga, Botswana bible translator, says that there is an agreed dialect that is going to be developed.

“At this moment, there’s an agreed dialect that is going on that we developed so that the autography, when it comes to exist, it should be under the agreed dialect.”

The project, at a cost of R1.3 million per year, will assist in developing the languages. There are already calls for the language board, Pansalb, to get involved and to strengthen efforts to get the languages in schools and universities.