Breakthrough  for iSiphuthi

Breakthrough for iSiphuthi

MASERU – THE Phuthi community will finally have Bible stories translated in their own language iSiphuthi.
That is thanks to the efforts of Bishop Daniel Rantle of the Methodist Church of Lesotho who has been working on the translations since last year.
The translation work of sections of Bible stories is set to be completed sometime next year.

The Baphuthi are a small community based in Quthing district where their great chief and warrior, Moorosi, was killed in the late 19th century.
Part of the Baphuti have been scattered across Lesotho and some parts of South Africa under the clan name of Mazizi, known to others as Matebele or Maswatsi, and have totally forgotten their language and traditions.

Their iSiphuthi language is mainly spoken in Mount Moorosi in Quthing and it is not written.
The Bishop Rantle-translated Bible stories will be their first written book.
The Ibadla le Baphuthi collaborates with the Bible Society of Lesotho and the Wycliffe Bible Translators of South Africa while the actual translator is Bishop Rantle.
Bishop Rantle, the Bible Society steering committee chairperson, says the Bible stories in iSiphuthi are a dream come true.
“Their prayers have been answered,” the Bishop said.

The translation work began in 2019 and is set to be completed in 2021.
Because the Phuthi vowels have not officially been established, the translation is done only in vocal sounds.
In the next three to five years the committee hopes to embark on translating the complete Bible.

For now through voice record, they have only decided to translate just 40 stories from the Bible and they have completed 20 of them already.
“We record with mega voice. Our consultants go to Baphuthi community and let them hear it so that they can confirm that the language is correct,” Bishop Rantle said.
“The device never runs out of battery because it is solar (powered),” he said.

The spokesperson of Baphuti, Mocheko Kghosi, said they have groups on Facebook and WhatsApp where they communicate in iSiphuthi and they have realised that they are so many in Lesotho and most parts of the Eastern Cape in South Africa. They want to revive their nation by accommodating them in churches.
With the requirement of one million native speakers as the minimum, the United Bible Society would not translate in iSiphuthi.
However, iBadla le Baphuthi is fighting that arguing that there are elderly people in the remote areas who cannot read or write both Sesotho and English who need to hear the word of God in their mother tongue.

“Most of Baphuthi still appreciate their language and would like to learn more of it,” Kghosi said.
He recalls the sermon of Bishop Rantle on Radio Lesotho last week where he translated Bible verses in iSiphuthi.
He said people were very happy that he received calls from a few of them from different sides of the country.
“That response was (very good)”.

Kghosi wants to keep iBadla le Baphuthi alive. He said they are also working on iSiphuthi dictionary with the help of linguists from the University of Cape Town.
iSiphuthi has been confirmed to be a Nguni language. Therefore establishing the vowels will not be difficult since most words will be borrowed from other Nguni languages and a little Sesotho.
They are still trying to find a way for the Ministry of Education to ensure that the language is taught in schools where Baphuthi live.
“It is one of our duties as the society to get the Bible translated into iSiphuthi to accommodate the natives,” Tsekana said.

The Ministry of Education is still to approve the correct language as the natives use different spellings, but that will not be a challenge once the vowels are established.
On the other hand, only a few churches in Lesotho are interested in translation.
Scholars also need to make an input in translation because the elders used deep language which the youths find hard to understand.
iBadla le Baphuthi and the Bible Society need to raise funds because the project requires a lot of money for research which is costly for testing, consultations and translation.
The estimated cost is about half a million maloti. Donors will contribute 80 percent and the society 20 percent.

’Mamakhooa Rapolaki

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