Last weekend, the Lusoga Bible was launched at Jinja Secondary school. There was more than one reason to celebrate. First, just the fact that the Bible had been translated into a local language was reason enough to pop the champagne. But also, according to Bishop Michael Kyomya, from the Busoga Anglican Diocese, the translation of this Bible had nearly collapsed when the Anglican faithful were polarised between 1990 and 1998. Thankfully, the Catholic Church kept funding it until it was done. Now the people of Busoga can read the Bible in a language they fully understand.
The Bible is one of the most translated books in the world. It has been translated into more than 2,800 languages according to Wikipedia. Back home, the Bible Society of Uganda, established in 1968, has translated the Holy Bible into Lusamia, Ateso, Lugbara, Runyakitara, Madi and Alur. There are also translations in Luganda, Ng’akarimojong, Acholi, Lango, and most recently Lusoga.
This is an encouraging step and more should be done for a couple of reasons. First, it encourages the continuation of the various languages we have. With communication becoming more global, languages such as French and English are preferred and many people, for whom these languages are not a mother tongue, strive to learn them. There is, therefore, need to ensure that while other languages are being learnt, the native ones are kept in use.
For a country for whom about 80 per cent of the population are Christian, the hope is that many of them will be able to access a copy and read it. If this is encouraged among families, more and more people will be able to get information as well as learn more about their languages.
Away from the Bible, the government should work with authors to translate their books into different languages. This will enable many more people to access information. The latest Uganda All Media and Products Survey shows that many people are consuming information in Luganda from newspapers, radios, and TVs. This shows a hunger for information and entertainment, in a language they understand well, are more conversant with and generally have most of their conversations in.
Luganda is only one of more than 50 languages the country has. The use of all the other languages must be encouraged in more than just the home. If there are books, newspapers and other such sources of information in these languages, there will be more chances of preserving our culture better and getting more people to access the information they need.