The Havakinau language is spoken at the western end of the island of Ambae in the north of Vanuatu in the South-West Pacific.
This language is spoken by around 8,000 people, some living on their home island, and some living in the towns of Vila and Santo, and a few on other islands in the Vanuatu Archipellego where they work.
The first translation work on the Bible was done in this language in 1913 when Theodore Waters translated the letters of Paul to the Thessalonians and it was published by the British and Foreign Bible Society. The language at that point was called the Nduindui language after the village the missionary lived in. He may have also translated other material but there is nothing left of any other portions he may have translated. Then in the 1960’s Keith Ludgater, a missionary working as headmaster of the Londua School on West Ambae, gathered a group of nationals together and encouraged them to try to translate the New Testament into their mother tongue from the English Bibles they had. Between 1966 and 1973 the first draft of the full New Testament was translated in this way. From 1968 onwards, Dorothy Dewar who had trained with Wycliffe Bible Translators joined the team to help with the second and third drafting. Matthew and Mark were publisihed by the Bible Society in the South Pacific in 1973 and they published Acts in 1977. The language was still referred to as the Duindui language.
The final drafting by a team of Ambae men and women with Dorothy’s help lasted till 1980 when the whole New Testament with a glossary was sent to the Bible Society in Australia for publication by the Bible Society in the South Pacific. Over this time the team was very grateful to the Bible Society in Australia for periodically sending consultants to help with the checking of this translation. They also greatly appreciated the input from the translation of the New Testament into the Bislama language, the common language of Vanuatu, which although not published till 1980 had been available to them in earlier drafts. As the grammar structure of Bislama is similar to Havakinau, there were many parts that were very helpful to the translators when translating into their language and they took advantage of the research that had gone into the Bislama translation.
This New Testament was published by the Bible Society in the South Pacific in 1984 and arrived on Ambae in April 1985 and received with great joy. The language at this point was called the West Ambae language, which was a more general name, as the language is spoken over a much wider area than just Nduindui village.
In 2004 the people of Ambae decided to do a revision of this New Testament and include the slight spelling changes that had been made in the primers that had been made to teach the children to read easily in their mother tongue. From 2004 – 2008 this revision was done by a team representing the various dialect areas of this language. Drafts were sent out to all the areas of Ambae where this language is spoken, and sent back to the team who worked on the final draft. Laurie Lingi was the coordinator of this project, and the team leader was Pastor Levi Karo. The team decided on a language name for their language, and following the pattern set by other languages in this area in naming their languages, they named this language Havakinau.
The Havakinau New Testament is now in the process of publication by the Bible Society in the South Pacific. The proof reading was done in May 2015 on the island of Ambae.