Nigeria: Christians relish “Pidgin English” to understand Bible

At the Heavenly Citizen’s Church in Lagos, the pastor and congregation have adopted a new tool to help them grasp Christian scripture: the first Bible translated into Nigerian pidgin. 

Sometimes termed pidgin English, the language is extensively used and understood across regions and ethnic groups in the nation of 200 million people, however most publications and newspapers on sale in Nigeria are in English.

Pastor Ben Akpevwe, who has been utilizing the Pidgin Bible during services at his church in Lagos’ run-down Ejigbo neighborhood, said: “Most people here, they are not properly schooled, you know, and so we do more pidgin English here,”

“Each time I am reading it in church they are always very excited because it is like identifying with the language of the people.”

Salem Egoh, an amateur translator, spent three years working alone on the Pidgin Bible. He intended to improve Bible comprehension in the deeply devout country, where English is the official language but not the first language of millions of people. 

Because many words contained in English editions of the Bible have no direct equivalent in pidgin, he claimed the project required inventiveness.

“For example the word ‘chariot’ has no word in pidgin, we had to invent a word called ‘horse motor’ to represent chariot,” said Egoh, who included a glossary of 1,000 words at the end of his translation.

The New Testament, the Book of Psalms, and the Book of Proverbs make up the Pidgin Bible thus far. Egoh is currently working on the rest of the Old Testament, with the goal of completing a whole Bible by the end of the year.

Working his way through a passage from the Book of Chronicles, he typed: “David plus all di pipo of Israel march go Jerusalem (wey be Jebus).” This was translated from: “And David and all Israel went to Jerusalem, that is, Jebus.”

Meanwhile, worshipper Elizabeth Eromosele of the Heavenly Citizen’s Church is already making excellent use of the Pidgin Bible, which is available for purchase across Nigeria and has been embraced by a number of places of worship.

“When it comes to English language you have to really crack your brain,” she said.

“But when it comes to Pidgin Bible you will read it as if you are interacting, you are talking freely. You are just reading it with comfort, you are not stressing yourself.”

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