The people of Salamaua Village have no Scriptures in their heart language. They are part of the Kela language group located on the Huon Gulf coast in Morobe Province, about 50 km south of Lae. The 3,000 Kela speakers live in six villages.
The Kela people value their language, and Tok Pisin is rarely heard in the villages. Kela church services, however, are largely conducted in Tok Pisin. Church leaders want the Scriptures in the Kela language so they can lead services in their tok ples. Elisa, a Bible translator in the nearby Malei language area, encouraged the leaders to pursue a translation effort.
Elisa helped the Kela community contact John Lindstrom of SIL-PNG and Steven Ttopoqogo of Papua New Guinea Bible Translation Association (BTA) to investigate the possibility of starting a Kela translation project. Steven and Elisa have taken leadership in their own language communities to translate God's Word into tok ples. John, a member of the Malei translation team, works as a translation consultant in Morobe Province. Mitchell and Janeen Michie, language development workers with SIL-PNG, rounded out the team.
When this group, led by Steven and Elisa, visited Salamaua Village, they listened to the community's ideas about a Bible translation project and then shared ways that BTA and SIL might partner with them. The Kela speakers will need to take ownership of the project, with assistance from the two translation organisations.
It may be possible to use an 'adaptation' process to complete a Kela-language Bible. Adaptation uses a related language that has already been translated as a starting point for a new translation project. The related language may share similar lexicon or grammatical structures with the target language. After comparative analysis, a rough draft of the translation can be created by using computer applications such as Paratext or AdaptIt. This process is not 'automatic translation,' but it can accelerate the translation.
The Salamaua community was warm and responsive toward the visitors. Kela church leaders will contact other Kela villages to gauge their interest in participating in a language project.
One Kela leader said: 'We definitely want a translation in Kela and we would be happy to choose Kela people to work on that translation.'