Tobi (pop. 150) is a Malayo-Polynesian language of the Carolinian language cluster. The language is closely related to the language of Sonsorol, its nearest neighbour. Other more distant relatives can be found in the outer islands of the Chuuk and Yap States of the Federated States of Micronesia, and on Saipan.
Tobi is a small coral island, one of the Republic of Palau’s Southwest Islands, and the most remote place in the Republic. Tobi’s area is less than one-quarter of a square mile. Its highest point is less than 20 feet above sea level and most of the island’s elevation is less than half of that. Surrounded by a fringing reef, the island consists of a beach, a band of high ground planted with coconuts, a path circling the island, another band of coconuts and bush, and taro gardens at the centre. Only about 20 people currently live on the island; the rest of the Tobi people live together with the people of Sonsorol in Echang, a settlement on Koror, the main island of the Palau archipelago. The Tobi people have expressed their deep concern that this may be the last generation that still knows their language. Most of them are bilingual in Sonsorolese as well as in Palauan.
(Most of the information above comes from the www.friendsoftobi.org website, where more information can be found.)
Bible Translation into the Tobian language
During a survey by a YWAM team in 2012, the community showed keen interest to start Bible translation in this language, especially those portions of Scriptures that are used in the lectionary readings for the Holy Eucharist services. This desire stems mostly from a desire by a few keen members of the community who would like to see a revival of the language take place.
In November 2012 translation of the Scriptures into the Tobian language started during a translation workshop organised by the Isles of the Sea team, along with YWAM partners. Over the following years, the team worked on a first draft of the New Testament. By mid 2019, over 80% of the New Testament had been translated.
Sonsorol is the main island of the Sonsorol State of Palau. It is one mile in length, while Fanna, the smallest island of the state, is only half a mile.
The people of Sonsorol State speak a different language and practice a different culture compared to the people of the main Palau archipelago. The culture and language of these people are similar to that of the neighbouring island of Tobi, as well as to the languages of the outer islands of Yap and Chuuk.
In the prehistoric days there were hundreds of people residing on the islands. Around 1900 a German census counted more than 300 people on Pulo Anna and Sonsorol. Now only about 60 people are living on the atolls, with the majority of the population (about 600) living in the Echang settlement on Palau. (Some of this information comes from the www.sonsorol.com website, where more detailed information about Sonsorol and its history can be found)
There is a lexical similarity of around 70% between Sonsorolese and the neighbouring Tobi language. Both languages are related to other Carolinian languages of Micronesia, such as the languages of Ulithi, Woleai, and Satawal.
Bible Translation into the Sonsorol language
The Sonsorol had a few portions of the Scriptures translated. Some of these portions got lost on a house fire, and the work came to a halt. During a survey by a YWAM team in 2012, the community showed keen interest to restart the translation work, especially those portions of Scriptures that are used in the lectionary readings for the Holy Eucharist services.
In November 2012 translation into the Sonsorol language made a fresh start during a translation workshop organised by the Isles of the Sea team, along with YWAM partners. Over the following years, the team worked on a first draft of the New Testament. By mid 2019, over 95% of the New Testament had been translated, as well as portions of various Old Testament books.
Mwoakilloa (total population about 1,250, of which fewer than 150 on the island itself) is very closely related to Pohnpeian but considered a distinct language, though it is under heavy influence of Pohnpeian. The majority of the Mwoakilloa people are living on Pohnpei, where they have three churches with services in their own language, apart from the Scripture readings, which are in Pohnpeian.
Bible Translation into the Mwoakilloa language
In 2010, contacts were made with the people of the Mwoakilloa language group to determine if there is significant interest in a translation of the Bible into their language. On March 28, 2011, leaders from the Mwoakilloa community got together and decided to start translation work. In June 2015, the first draft of the New Testament was finished. Isles of the Sea translators Peter and Robin Knapp are involved with the project as advisors.
Pingelapese (total population about 5,000, of which 300 live on Pingelap atoll itself) is considered to be a vigorous language, though it is influenced by Pohnpeian and English. The majority of the Pingelapese are living on Pohnpei, where they have two churches with services in their own language. There are 7 churches worldwide that use Pingelapese in their worship services.
Bible Translation into the Pingelapese language
Bible translation work began in June 2012, being commissioned by the King of Pingelap. The Pingelapese Bible Translation committee is centered in Kolonia, Pohnpei. There are 44 mother tongue translators. Ken Dixon is serving as the advisor for the project. Members of the Translation committee as well as various church members have expressed extreme excitement about having the Bible in their own language.
Ulithi (pop. 3,000) is a Micronesian language, part of Carolinian language continuum. The language is under influence of Yapese and somewhat of English, but nonetheless strong. Local customs, as on all the outlying islands in Yap and Chuuk states, are still very strong.
Bible Translation into the Ulithi language
The Ulithi New Testament was published by the United Bible Societies in 1995. It is not clear if this translation meets the needs of the Ulithi people. Reports suggest that a retired Ulithi teacher is currently translating the Old Testament.
Polowat (pop. 2,000) is part of the Carolinian language continuum; these are very closely related dialects of each other. Polowatese is under influence of Lagoon Chuukese and somewhat of English. Polowat is part of the state of Chuuk, and the only way to get to the atoll is by ship from Chuuk.
Bible Translation into the Polowat language
Various contacts have been made in 2010 with the people of the Polowat language group to determine if there is significant interest in a translation of the Bible into their language. Since Polowatese is closely related to the other Carolinian languages, it will be possible to make an adaptation from one of the related languages. This will greatly speed up the initial drafting of the translation and will ensure that the various translations produced in the Carolinian languages will be of a similar style. Work on a translation has yet to start.
Satawal (pop. 800) is a Micronesian language, part of the Carolinian language continuum, under influence of neighboring languages both east and west but nonetheless strong. The Satawalese are famous for their exceptional navigation skills. Local customs, as on all the outlying islands in Yap and Chuuk states, are still very strong.
Bible Translation into the Satawal language
In August 2010 translation advisor Cameron Fruit was approached by representatives of the Satawalese community on Yap where he was working with the Woleai translation team. They said they find the Chuukese Bible hard to understand and would like to translate the Bible into their own language. A beginning was made of adapting the Saipan Carolinian translation into Satawalese, using the computer program AdaptIt. This process has speeded up the process of making the initial draft, and ensures that the various translations produced in the Carolinian languages will be of a similar style.
At the end of 2016 the first draft of the Satawal New Testament was completed. The team on Yap then continued with revisions. In 2019, a small trial edition of the New Testament was printed and distributed to get feedback from the community. Translation consultant Paulus Kieviet started to work with the team on a consultant check of the New Testament, a process that will take a number of years.
Woleai (pop. 1,400) is a Micronesian language, part of Carolinian language continuum, under influence of Ulithian and somewhat of English but nonetheless strong. Local customs, as on all the outlying islands in Yap and Chuuk states, are still very strong.
Bible Translation into the Woleai language
Around 2010, a number of people on Woleai Yap started on translating the New Testament in their language. For a number of years, they were assisted by Isles of the Sea translation advisor Cameron Fruit. For a few years, there were even two translation teams, working on different parts of Yap.
By early 2019, about 80% of the New Testament had been drafted. Over the next years, translation consultant Paulus Kieviet hopes to work with the team to get the translation consultant checked.
The Woleai translation team. Left to right, front: Joanie Kuor, Lourdes Hasugulfil, Johanna Malimai, Queentina Haleyalgiy, Mary Sanemai. Back: Ignateus Pakaluwow, John Malimai, Peter Haleyalgiy, Augustino Sanemai.
Carolinian (pop. 3,000) is a Micronesian language, part of the Carolinian language continuum. The Carolinian language spoken in the Mariana Islands originates, as the name clearly indicates, from the Caroline Islands far to the south. Migrations have mainly come form the outlying islands of the Yap and Chuuk States of Micronesia. Saipan is an urban environment, so the Carolinian and Chamorro languages spoken there are under strong pressure from English. The Carolinian language manages to preserve viable dialect differences, reflecting the various islands the people have migrated from.
Bible Translation into the Carolinian language
Isles of the Sea translation advisor Cameron Fruit is assisting a small but dedicated team of Carolinian translators. The New Testament is progressing well with all of the books drafted and going through various stages of review. The NT is expected to be published in 2014 or 2015.
Checking session of the Carolinian translation