The nuts and bolts of Bible translation

During a Bible class at the seminary here, one of the professors asked his class how a certain key word was translated in each of their languages. One student replied, “I haven’t decided yet.” Turns out he was the head of the Bible translation team in his area, and they were still debating which word would best convey the concept. That’s about as cutting edge as it gets.

David Ker (of the new high-speed internet connection) has been live blogging this week about some translation checking he is doing.  Here’s Tuesday:

…In conversation yesterday I learned that the reason there are so many truck wrecks on our highway is that certain villages do magic ceremonies to cause tipovers so that the villagers can carry off the cargo. I also learned that tuberculosis has two causes. The first is genetic. You get it from your family. The second is drinking impure homebrew alcohol.

Pamwepo Iye adaimirira acicosa bzakubvala bzace, adatenga nguwo yakupukutira acimanga m’ciuno mwace.

Then he stood-up removing clothes his, he-took sheet cleaning tying on-waist his.

The Nyungwe reviewers had suggested that this be changed to “his outer clothing.” That change made, we still had to discuss what kind of cloth he wrapped around himself. Was it a towel? Or a capulana like the colorful pieces of fabric that women tie over their skirts to keep them clean? Looking at us from the outside you would see three men sitting at a desk intensely concentrating on the Word of God. It is a scene from my missionary fantasies. Little did I know back then that the men sitting at the sacred translation desk were discussing how to make it sound like Jesus wasn’t naked and vigorously debating whether pronouns should be capitalized when they refer to Jesus.

Here’s Wednesday’s tongue twister:

bzinthu bzangu bzentse ni bzanu, ndipombo bzinthu bzanu bzentse ni bzangu, mwa ibzo ndapasidwa mbiri

Everything that is mine is yours, and everything that is yours is mine, in this am I given glory.

Check in again for week 2.

Eddie Arthur did something similar twenty years ago when he wrote about his experiences during their First Five Weeks in a Kouya village. If you want to actually see translation checking happening you can watch a short video of his wife Sue in action in Madagascar. [It’s in French.]

You can read Eddie’s posts on why he thinks Bible Translation is important here, here and here.

2 thoughts on “The nuts and bolts of Bible translation

  1. David Ker says:

    Thanks for the link love. I have a lot more to say but I was so busy translating that I didn’t have time for blogging…

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