Recording Scripture Helps Preserve Endangered Languages

Oral cultures learn best through hearing

Open Chapel International is preserving endangered languages through Scripture. Oral learners learn best when the words are spoken out loud. The paper and ink of traditional Bible translation often leaves the Word of God on the page. But when we read the Bible aloud and record it, something beautiful happens.

Who’s Listening

We believe it is important to bring the whole Bible to oral cultures in a way they can understand.  Ultimately, the message of the Bible comes across to audio learners best with someone reading the Scriptures out loud.   While Americans tend to be all about the entertainment value of a media presentation, oral cultures want only one voice.  Without a doubt the best way to reach endangered cultures is with one voice narration.

Why One Voice Narration?

We’ve all experienced a crowded room full of people all talking loudly at once.  It is difficult to hear anyone.  That is how tribal peoples feel with multiple voice narration of the Bible. You may enjoy hearing a woman’s voice answer Jesus as he talks to her at the well.  But to a person who is used to traditional storytelling, it detracts from the message.

Too much noise confuses the message. 

Western society is constantly bombarded with background noise and different voices.  In fact, we quickly get bored if there is not a lot of drama included in the recording.  Other people who are used to hearing stories told in the evenings by their grandfather while sitting around the fire.  They find one voice narration of the Bible very similar to their style of learning.  While a teenager from the U.S. may find one voice narration boring, anther person from Uganda will feel totally engaged.

It is how our brains work. 

Studies have shown we listen to dramatic sounds with a different portion of our brains than when hearing a single voice speaking.  When people hear a recording of the Bible that has Jesus talking and there are sheep bleating in the background, it can be very distracting.  This is because our brains are working hard to sort out the true message from the extemporaneous noise.

Oral learners remember more when presented with one voice narration.

MegaVoice, a major contributor to the Bible recording movement, has proven that people who are used to learning from hearing rather than reading are much more likely to remember a Biblical story if it is presented by only one person speaking.  MegaVoice actually tried this in the field and the results were astounding.  When asked to repeat the Bible story, people actually remembered much less of what they heard if multiple voices and sound effects are used.

One voice narration is MUCH cheaper to produce. 

Faith Comes By Hearing is a great ministry that focuses on multi-voice narration with sound effects.  They have already recorded the New Testament in our native language of Lumasaaba.  When we asked them to give us an estimate of what it would cost to do a recording of the Old Testament in that same language, they quoted us a price of $70,000.  Open Chapel International has set up a small sound proof recording studio with equipment donated from Audio Scripture Ministries and we are making audio recordings of the entire Bible in tribal languages at a tenth of that cost.  We applaud FCBH for their tremendous efforts for the Kingdom of God, but we feel one voice narration is more effective in helping people remember the Word of God and certainly more cost effective.

Entirety of Scripture where available is crucial.

Many translations of the Bible into tribal languages only include the New Testament.  But if there is a full translation available, we prefer the entirety of Scripture when making audio recordings.

  1. The entire Bible is about Jesus Christ.  When we offer tribal peoples only a translation of the New Testament we have certainly made an excellent beginning, but that is not the end of the work.  In order to see the entire Gospel message, we must present the books of the law, prophets, history, poetry and wisdom literature.  Imagine trying to understand the concept of Jesus sacrificing himself for our sins if we had never read about the blood of the Passover lamb when the children of Israel escaped from Egypt.
  2. All of history and the universe is God centered.  Too often when only reading the New Testament, we get bogged down in the question, “What’s in it for me?”  But the Bible shows a God who is bigger than just my little postage stamp of the world.  Even when we read God’s story throughout the entire Bible, we are only gaining a glimpse of who He is.  The Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 13:12 “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”  Why limit the tribal peoples we minister to with only a part what God has revealed about Himself?
  3. Faith comes through the Word of God.  When we hear from God from Genesis to Revelation we grow in faith.  We see how God answered the prayers of the patriarchs and we learn to pray the Word for ourselves.  When we align ourselves with the entirety of scripture we are less likely to be deceived by false doctrines, we are better able to share our faith with others and we become more like Christ.  As God unfolds His plan for salvation throughout scripture we stand in awe of His mighty power and goodness and fall down to worship the only God our Father.

 Equipment was donated by our partners.

We are using equipment donated by Audio Scripture Ministries and are very grateful to Jim Loker for his help in pushing this project forward.  For distribution, we plan to make the recording available online free of charge and for local people without computer access, we will use Mega Voice audio devices, ninety of which were donated by New Life Assembly of God, led by pastors Steven and JoLynn Brown.

Catherine Mabongor, the production manager, is not fluent enough in the language to read.  In addition, most people feel a male voice should narrate scripture.  We recently ran into a slight snag when we discovered the mixer box produces a tin-can sound.  We were able to fix the problem with the help of Words of Hope in Mukono Uganda.  And the recording has continued.


This solar powered mp3 device has enough space to hold the entire Bible in Lumasaaba.  These sturdy devices won’t easily break and the content can’t be changed unless the owner brings it back to us for updating.  They cost $35 each.  If you would like to purchase one for free distribution please let us know.

Our first project is  in Lumasaaba.

Open Chapel International’s first recording venture is in the endangered language of Lumasaaba.  Due to economic factors and the homogenizing effects of society, Bamasaaba are at risk.  In a few more generations, our language could fall silent.  In an effort to preserve our language and to reclaim our culture back to God (Wele), we are recording the entire Bible copyright free.

We are using the text which was translated by the Bible Society of Uganda and released in December 2016.  Rev. Milton Eridad Shiisa is on our team because he was one of the main translators of the Scriptures into Lumasaaba.  As a translator and minister of the Gospel he is more than qualified to read the words he help bring into his mother tongue.

Check out our progress on the recording so far:


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