Original Research

‘Not getting what you ask for’ from rapid appraisal surveys: A new model to assess Bible translation needs

Tobias J. Houston
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 78, No 1 | a7532 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i1.7532 | © 2022 Tobias J. Houston | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 March 2022 | Published: 03 June 2022

About the author(s)

Tobias J. Houston, Department of Hebrew, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa; Baptist Mission Australia, Melbourne, Australia


The decision to initiate a Bible translation project in any community has profound implications. In logistical terms, Bible translation projects can be expensive and taxing on their donors, initiators and other stakeholders. However, they can also have positive transformative effects on the communities that benefit from the translation. Therefore, the decision to translate should be carefully considered. In many cases, a rapid appraisal survey is conducted to determine the remaining Bible translation needs in a given situation. This article assessed the validity of rapid appraisal surveys using the Yaawo context of Mozambique as a case study and cautions against their use when performed in isolation. A new model is proposed based on the object metaphor of a beaded necklace that, although it involves more time and resources, will result in a more appropriate response to the needs (or lack thereof) for Bible translation in each context. Supplementing the beaded necklace model for determining Bible translation needs, insights from narrative frame theory are highlighted as they were applied recently to the complex Yaawo context in Mozambique. These insights are presented to demonstrate that initiating a Bible translation project is not just a sociolinguistic decision but a contextual one as well.

Contribution: The translation of the Bible is a complex process. This article demonstrates that narrative framing is a useful tool for managing the complexity around a new Bible translation project by offering a new model for stakeholders and initiators to assess and manage the context of a new Bible translation situation.


Yaawo people; Ciyaawo; Bible translation; narrative framing; complexity thinking; Skopostheorie; Mozambique; language survey; translation model; Bible translation management


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1. Towards redeeming ‘loyalty’ in functionalist Bible translation using the Hebrew ḥesed concept
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HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies  vol: 79  issue: 2  year: 2023  
doi: 10.4102/hts.v79i2.7983