MAST is a collaborative rapid-translation system in which groups of mother-tongue translators work in parallel to translate books of the Bible while maintaining the highest levels of accuracy and quality.
“The whole translation strategy is based on learning principles that have been tested and proven over a long period of time in a wide range of educational settings,” says Bruce Smith, president and CEO of Wycliffe Associates.
New language translations are launched through a MAST workshop, a training program facilitated by Wycliffe Associates, which brings together mother tongue translators, church checkers, and language consultants to work on a new-language Bible translation at the same time.
The result is a significant savings in translation time, often reducing a years-long process to a matter of months or weeks. Using traditional methods, a translation of the New Testament can take 25 to 30 years to complete.
In late 2014, Wycliffe Associates piloted a MAST workshop with mother-tongue translators in a nation where Christians suffer ongoing persecution by members of the majority religion. Thirteen translators were divided into teams of three or four, and each team was assigned one of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Every team member was then assigned a portion of that book to translate. Working 12-hour days, each translator completed approximately 34 verses each day, drafting during the mornings and using a five-step process to quality check the verses in the afternoons and evenings.
By the end of two weeks, the translators had completed the drafting and checking process for Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and 1 and 2 Timothy—approximately 48 percent of the New Testament—with no decrease to high quality standards of the translation.
At the request of Wycliffe Associates, translation experts checked the MAST translators’ work and confirmed the accuracy of the team’s translation.
Dr. John Luton, who has participated in checking the work of numerous translation projects around the world says, “The work produced through MAST methodology is excellent. It compares very favorably with texts produced through other methods.”
So far this year, 314 new translation projects have been started using MAST, and MAST teams have completed the entire New Testament in 58 languages, with 100 more translations nearing completion.
“Our breakthrough MAST strategy is accelerating Bible translation beyond anything we could have imagined, even a couple of years ago,” says Smith. “It is not Westerners doing the translation work in remote areas—it’s nationals being equipped to translate God’s Word themselves.”