Celebrating the Launch of the Gospel

Celebrating the Launch of the Gospel of Mark & the book of Obadiah in the Ahamb language, Vanuatu.

Ahamb (the language name is alternatively spelled Axamb, Akhamb or Akamb and pronounced with a velar fricative) is an Oceanic language and as such, a part of the Austronesian language family. It is spoken by approximately 800 people primarily on the small low-lying Ahamb island (covering only 0.3 sq km) off the south coast of Malekula, the second largest island in the Republic of Vanuatu in the Southwest Pacific. Malekula, with its population of just 23,000, is one of the most linguistically diverse places in the world with more than 30 vernacular languages spoken today. Ahamb, together with a few other languages including Unua, Lamap, Uluveu (Maskelynes) and Avok, form the Southeast Malekula linkage. Ahamb shares many cognates and structures with these languages but their mutual intelligibility is not sufficient to consider them dialects of the same language.

Sociolinguistic factors

Virtually all speakers of Ahamb are bilingual in Ahamb and Bislama (a dialect of Melanesian Creole), the national language of Vanuatu. Some Ahamb speakers also speak English. French is not commonly spoken. Bislama is the more prestigious language and the language of choice for trade and communication with the authorities and people from other language areas. It is also the more common language for church services. Bislama and English are used in teaching at the local primary and secondary schools. Ahamb is mostly used at home and for everyday purposes and sometimes for custom ceremonies. Ahamb borrows heavily from Bislama and code switching is common.

Ahamb is a predominantly spoken language with very few written sources, including a handful of songs and a short Bible comic story published recently. There is no established standardised orthography for Ahamb yet.

Although it is passed to virtually all children living on Ahamb island, the language is considered endangered due to Bislama being the dominant and more prestigious language and the limited domains, in which Ahamb is used. Other socioeconomic factors that contribute to Ahamb’s endangerment status include migration due to climate change (more frequent and severe storms and cyclones and the resulting erosion), overpopulation and the general effects of globalisation.

Translation Background:
For Apenisa’s input

Travelling to the Launch
Pastor Bernard the Mission Coordinator and Elder Jack Rueben Manager of the Bible Society of the South Pacific Vanuatu Mission travelled to Ahamb for the launching on the Thursday 22 November 2018 on Air Vanuatu flight from Port Vila to Lamap transit from Luganville in.  Landing at Lamap they then travelled by boat to Ahamb and arrived at 3pm in the afternoon.  We were advised that there was a dead in the village and we went shared our sympathy with the family and Pastor Bernard offered a prayer for the families.



Launching of Ahamb Language Gospel of Mark and Obadiah

The launching of Ahamb language gospel of Mark and Obadiah was part of the  program of  the Church Service to close the church program of the year 2018.  There were about  500 people in the church during the church service in the morning and Pastor Paul Morris led commissioning of 15 young communicant members and closing of the Sunday school program for 2018. The Church was filled with children.  Church Elders were holding a copy each of the printed Gospel and marched in to the church for dedication by the Inter-Moderator of Ahamb.

In his speech Elder Jack Reuben congratulated the community and acknowledged those who have contributed.  Elder Tomansel and Marian and 2 boys who have helped with review and corrections before the printing. The occasion marks an important history of the island.  Elder Reuben reminds the people that this is the beginning of more work yet to be done with other books of the New Testament yet to be translated. With the assistance of more translators to join the translation work the translation will be completed soon. A list of all the New Testament books was been given out on the day and many volunteers gave their names showing interest in the Bible translation work.


The church leader response expressed their appreciation to the work of the Bible Society in producing this gospel for the very first time they can read God’s Word in their own language 

Marian above one of our proof readers, with a pen and paper collecting names of new translators. 


Elder Reuben thanked the Bible Society and for all those who supported Bible work in the Pacific for funding the first part of the work of Ahamb Translation and funding the costs of the printing the Gospel of Mark and Obadiah and for the distribution to the community as first achievement of translation of Ahamb New Testament. 

He reported having identifed more translators to help with the work of translation of the New Testament which they hope to achieve in the next 4-5 years.


To some elderly and young people of today this is the first time they have ever had a copy of a piece of scripture in their own mother tongue.  They are happy now they can read the Bible in their own mother tongue for the very first time.

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