QUESTION: What is alive, active, has the ability to divide soul and spirit, and can overcome barriers of illiteracy, vision impairment, and blindness?
ANSWER: An audio Bible.
While audio Bibles are a powerful tool for evangelism and discipleship, and a life-changing gift for people with reading difficulties, creating them can be a long and labor-intensive process. But that hasn’t kept Biblica from seeking to produce high-quality audio Bibles for all of our contemporary translations.
What goes into recording an audio Bible in another language?
HINT: It’s more complex than you might think.
Audio Bibles can be based on either oral or written translation. An oral translation takes place when someone listens to a recording of the Bible and then translates what they are hearing, segment by segment, into another language. When an audio Bible is based on a written translation, however, the process begins with the quality of the translation, which needs to be accurate to the original Greek and Hebrew languages, and also easy for listeners to understand. Translation projects can take decades to complete.
As translations are completed, languages are prioritized for recording by need.
If we are starting a new project that will need funding, partners are invited to contribute funds toward the cost of the production work.
Next, we work with recording partners around the globe, helping them find the right vocal talent and studio facilities.
As production is underway, uploaded audio files are checked and rechecked to make sure they are error-free.
Books are not necessarily recorded in order. Most studios have never taken on projects of this size and need help figuring out how to best move through the Old and New Testament. Starting with a long book like Genesis, for instance, could be a huge mistake. If errors are made, all 50 chapters might need to be re-recorded. Instead, Biblica often advises starting with shorter books to perfect the process before going on to longer books.
When recording is complete, there are 60 to 80 hours’ worth of audio files—and all of them must be proofed. We do that by having proofers read Bible passages as they listen to the audio recording to make sure the two are a good match.
Finally, the audio files have to be mastered. That means tweaking frequencies and making sure the audio sounds rich and full. After mastering (and one last listen), the finished product is uploaded to the DBL—Digital Bible Library—where it is typically made available for people to listen to and download through YouVersion.
While the impact of these translations isn’t always statistically measurable, it is nevertheless powerful and far-reaching.
Fuzz Senekal, a resident of South Africa, has recorded a number of audio translations for Biblica in languages including Shona, Luganda, Akuapem Twi, and Chichewa.
“Literacy is more of a problem here in the 3rd world than in the 1st,” Fuzz says. “Audio Bibles in the 3rd world give people who struggle to read better access to the Word.”
Many people with failing eyesight and problems such as macular degeneration also benefit from audio Bibles. Instead of straining to read a large print edition of the Bible, they can listen to God’s Word.
According to Fuzz, hearing the Bible in your native tongue is so powerful, even bystanders to the project are affected. He explains: “Our studio is surrounded by restaurants with waiters and kitchen staff who speak most of the languages that we’ve recorded, so sometimes we ask them to listen to a piece of the recording to get their opinion on an accent. Often as they hear the audio, they get emotional because they’ve never heard the Gospel brought to life in their mother tongue in this way.”
At Biblica, we believe that when you put a Bible into someone’s hands, it has the power to change everything. The same can be said for audio Bibles, which are even more accessible than print Bibles.