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Left: Samples of publications translated into Papiamento since 1948. Right: The colorful buildings of Willemstad, Curaçao, one of the islands where Papiamento is spoken

DECEMBER 11, 2023

Seventy-Five Years of Translating Bible Truths Into the Papiamento Language

Seventy-Five Years of Translating Bible Truths Into the Papiamento Language

The year 2023 marks the 75th anniversary of translation work by Jehovah’s Witnesses into the Papiamento language. Papiamento is a creole language that is primarily based on Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish. Today, approximately 350,000 people living on what are known as the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao speak Papiamento.

The preaching work began in these islands in the late 1920’s. By the time Gilead-trained missionaries arrived in Curaçao in 1946, several congregations had already been established on the island. However, there were no publications yet translated into Papiamento. Congregation meetings were conducted in both English and Papiamento using publications in Dutch, English, and Spanish. While the brothers recognized the need for Bible literature in Papiamento, there were several obstacles. For instance, there were no Papiamento dictionaries and no established rules for grammar and spelling. Brother Bill Yeatts was one of the first missionaries assigned to the islands, and he assisted with the translation work. As quoted in the 2002 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he recalled: “In publishing the Kingdom message, we had to say and write things that had never been said or written before in Papiamento. It was a challenge to establish the standards to go by.” Despite these difficulties, the brothers moved forward with their translation efforts.

The first publication translated into Papiamento was the booklet The Joy of All the People, which was completed in 1948. Eventually, more publications were translated, including the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. The New World Translation is currently being released incrementally in Papiamento. The first Bible book to be translated was Ruth, which was released on October 1, 2021.

Sisters engaged in public witnessing on the island of Aruba

The results of these efforts are evident in the steady increase of publishers throughout these islands. In 1956, when the first Papiamento-speaking congregation was formed, there were 16 publishers. Today, over 1,600 publishers worship together in 25 Papiamento-speaking congregations. During 2023, over 1,200 Bible studies were conducted.

We are confident that Jehovah will continue to bless the efforts of the many brothers and sisters working in the Papiamento-speaking field as they let their light shine, bringing glory to Jehovah.—Matthew 5:16.