The Biblia Habari Njema is a meaning-based translation or a dynamic translation of the functional equivalence variety. Translations of this type, such as the English Good News Bible or Contemporary English Version, as a matter of policy set out to give greater priority to meaning and how this is to be faithfully captured in the receptor text (the language of translation) as accurately, clearly and naturally as is possible. These type of translations place priority on the sense of the original text. In contrast, translations such as the Swahili Union Version are of the formal correspondence variety. They place more emphasis on the words and forms of the original text rather than on the contextual meaning of the original text. The result is often unnatural, unclear, inaccurate and ambiguous renderings. Many of the early translations mentioned in this paper are of this variety.
With at least five major complete Bible versions in Swahili, namely the Kiugunja (1891), the Kimvita (1914), the Roehl (1937), the Swahili Union Version (1952), and the Habari Njema (1996), no other language in East Africa is blessed with such a rich heritage. The fact that Swahili is now the major lingua franca of the East African region means that this heritage is spread over the whole area. Indeed the impact and influence of these translations on other translations in East African languages are fairly evident. It is moreover interesting to note that in Tanzania the use of the Swahili translations holds a near monopoly and is fast replacing the existing vernacular translations. Whether this trend will continue or whether the vernacular translations will reassert their dominance in their respective areas remains to be seen. The situation in Kenya and Uganda is however different. There the use of vernacular Scriptures is a dominant factor in the rural areas while the use of Swahili and English Scriptures tends to dominate the urban scene. The impact and influence of the Swahili Scriptures on the early Christian communities in East Africa and on the contemporary church situation in this region is an interesting subject of further study and research.
Abdulaziz, M.H. “Tanzania's National Language Policy and the Rise of Swahili Political Culture, ” In Ed. W.H. Whiteley, Language Use and Social Change, Problems of Multilingualism with Special Reference to Eastern Africa. London: Oxford University Press, 1971: 160–178.
Anderson, W.B. The Church in East Africa. Dodoma: Central Tanganyika Press, 1977.