Fun with Translation


…kind of like “running with scissors,” maybe? Well, maybe not quite as dangerous, and certainly more rewarding. But the common aspect might be “you never know what might happen!”
It is so good be be done with anti-termite warfare (knock on wood… literally!) and into translation full-time. That’s why we’re here, of course. Not to mention that I enjoy translating much more than trashing and rebuilding our jungle house. Plus, to date, my computer translation software has never set off an asthma attack (unlike some termite poisons I know… names withheld to protect the toxic.)
Anyway, one new thing this time around is how much help I have… and the quality of help. This is a huge blessing and will see us through much more quickly. First of all, now we have a partner who can help with some of the checking. That is good, and should provide some objective insights into how well the drafts communicate (not to mention save me time to work on other steps in the process!)
Of course, Donna will resume her role as before, but as her language ability keeps growing, she will be taking on more roles and working at deeper levels. Hey, check it out… I get to a)work at home, b)study and discuss the Bible all day, and c)work with (and have all three meals with) my wife! Luckiest guy on the planet and who says missionary life is all suffering? Well… I guess I wouldn’t mind if my kids were a bit less than 8,000 miles away, but you can’t have everything.
One thing I’m excited about is being able to have a team of guys to help me instead of just one translation helper. Now that the church (and many of the men as individuals) have grown, I have much more of a resource there for working on the translation.
I have chosen 7 men to start with, from several different clans/communities, ranging over the span of ages 26-45. These guys know the Lord, already have a good grasp of much of what He is trying to say in His Word, and they are motivated to see it in their hands, and the hands of the entire church here. And, the different generations and ages bring a good variety of perspective. Arnel (26), who is teaching our youth group, lets us know how certain words and renderings might (or might not) be understood by the younger generation. That’s great.
Anyway… I will be working with these guys on drafting translation in the days ahead. So pray for them, as well as for me (Arturo, Abil, Susing, Giyang, Arnel, Bibot and Karding.)
To start with, we have been discussing some of what we translators call “key terms.” That refers to high-content terms like “justification,” “holiness,” the word that will be used for “God,” etc. Many of these terms are already establish, but we are working on some new ones… and it doesn’t hurt to discuss and verify some of the old ones, either.
Here’s a few we’ve worked on recently:
Tabernacle, Temple, Synagogue.
Can you explain the difference (without checking you NIV Study Bible)? Sure, probably. But such terms, while not the most doctrinally thrilling, present a challenge for a language whose speakers have: no tents or canvas, do not tan hides and who have no buildings made of stone (or which last more than say, 5 years!) Not only that, but Palawanos have no “temples” (or churches), even in their traditional animistic religion. Anyway… fun, but that’s the easy stuff.
How about…
The only religious practitioner that Palawanos have known in their history is the shaman, who is a spirit medium. That’s not exactly a Biblical “priest.” And the believers here feel very keenly that shamanism, along with the animism they have left behind is not something they want to validate by using the word belian (shaman) for “priest.” We could use pari (i.e. borrow the Tagalog word for Catholic priest), but that word has a lot of baggage and is meaningless to many people, anyway. How about sasirdoti (again, a Tagalog word with absolutely no meaning to a Palawano)? Oh you can also make up a word that conveys what “priests” are, or what they do… but which aspect do you focus on: offering sacrifices? prayer? mediator? chosen by God? And remember, you wand a term that doesn’t take a half a page every time it occurs (this is a New Testament, not a Bible Dictionary we’re writing here!) Again, it’s fun… but there are no easy answers.
Other concepts we have discussed lately include redeem/redemption, “in Christ” (as in Ephesians 1:1-14), and grace.
Well if you ever wondered why it takes more than a few weeks to translate a New Testament, now you know one of the reasons!
And hopefully, you know… and are motivated, to pray for me (AND the committee!) as we seek to faithfully communicate God’s Word in Palawano.

About billdavisthoughts

From San Diego, CA. I've been a missionary and Bible translator in the Philippines for over 30 years and have travelled as a language learning consultant to 15 countries. I play piano and guitar. I write, read voraciously and love to work on word puzzles. Married for 35 years, we have two daughters and two grandchildren.
This entry was posted in Language & Translation. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s