Saturday, June 1, 2013

Translator Training

Greetings from the town of Wabag, where just yesterday we officially launched the Enga Bible translation project (more about that next month)!

Over the past five weeks, we have been working with nine Enga speakers from five different denominations to learn about translation methods and principles. In practice work, we encountered challenges like how to translate 'the sea was rough' and 'he paddled a canoe'. These are foreign concepts since the Enga people live nowhere near the ocean and rarely ever see a canoe. After long discussions, we settled on 'the sea flopped around' (the same verb is used to describe what a fish out of water does) and 'he drove (literally: rope held) a ship'. The latter translation is based on the Engan practice of tying a rope to a fallen tree to drag (or drive) it to another location. The person holding the rope is the one who is 'driving' or 'steering' the tree. Enga people use the borrowed word 'ship' for any form of water transportation.

The Engan trainees enjoyed discovering their own language. While they are masters of speaking their own language, they have never really studied it before to determine what all of the little bits and pieces of their language mean. As they began considering the literal English translations of their language, they would laugh. They never realized just how different Enga is from English. Consider for example, the Enga translation of Genesis 22:2. The NIV Bible reads:

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

The literal word-for-word Enga translation reads:

That after God speaking sitting, "Your son one only, Isaac, you love feeling that one taking Moriah land the to go. Having gone he sacrifice becoming burning let him be consumed by fire saying mountain a I show will do the on cook," said.

Or to put it in standard English grammar (which still sounds awkward):

After that, God while (literally: sitting) speaking said, "Taking your one [and] only son Isaac, that one, go to the land [of] Moriah. Having gone, [on] a mountain I will show [you], at that [place], cook [him] saying, 'burning [and] becoming [a] sacrifice, let him be consumed by fire."

As you can see, translation work is not easy! Please pray for us as we begin work on the Enga New Testament over the coming months, and praise God that the Enga Bible translation project is now officially underway!

To view a video of some highlights of the five-week Translators' Training Course, please click here.