Audio recording of Proverbs in Bezhta and Tsakhur
July 1, 2014

The book of Proverbs has recently been audio recorded by IBT in the endangered Bezhta and Tsakhur languages. Bezhta is spoken by about 6,000 people in Dagestan and does not have an official orthography, while Tsakhur has about 23,000 speakers in Dagestan and Azerbaijan and is written with both Cyrillic and Roman orthographies. While both languages have a rich oral tradition, neither yet has a tradition of written literature. For Tsakhurs the language of wider communication, i.e., for official writing, school, media, etc., is Russian on the Dagestan side and Azeri on the Azerbaijan side of the border, while Bezhtas used both Russian and Avar, a related Dagestanian language, for such purposes.

The very first publication in Bezhta was produced in 1999, when IBT printed the Bezhta translation of the Gospel of Luke. This book included a simple description of the alphabet devised for writing Bezhta, since native speakers had previously never read anything in their mother tongue. The book of Proverbs followed in 2005. The Tsakhur Gospel of Luke and book of Proverbs were published in 2003 and 2012, respectively.

These Bible publications bring to light the ample means that such minority languages have for expressing complex literary forms, and demonstrate once again that Bible translation serves both to document endangered languages and to develop their internal resources. Since most speakers of Bezhta and Tsakhur do not have much experience reading books in their mother tongue, IBT realized that it would be useful to have not just text on paper, but also an audio recording to help speakers align sounds with letters and thereby build capacity for reading. Both the text and the audio recordings will also soon be available for downloading on IBT's website.