Friday, November 1, 2013

What Does It Really Mean?

While Engans are experts at speaking their own language, sometimes it is a challenge for them to provide clear explanations in English of what individual words actually mean.

“What does ‘endaki pete tombapae’ mean?” I ask one of the Enga translators. “It means ‘well’,” he replies. “OK, so I know that ‘endaki’ means ‘water’ and ‘tombapae’ means something like ‘dug out’, but what does ‘pete’ mean?” I ask. “The whole thing just means ‘well’,” he says again. “Yes, but I need to tell our consultant exactly what each word means in English so that he can check our translation. Doesn’t ‘endaki pete’ mean ‘lake’ when it doesn’t have the word ‘tombapae’ at the end?” I ask. “Yes, that’s right,” the translator replies. “So if ‘endaki’ means ‘water’ then what does ‘pete’ mean in that case?” I ask again. “The two words ‘endaki pete’ just mean lake,” he says. “So ‘endaki pete tombapae’ means ‘dug out lake’?” I ask. “No, it just means ‘well’,” he says.

Welcome to the world of back translation! In order to ensure a good translation that is accurate and faithful to the meaning of the original text of the Bible, one of my (Adam’s) duties as the Enga Bible translation advisor is to write an extremely literal word-for-word translation of our Enga Bible translation back into English. A translation consultant then reads our back translation and compares it with the original Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible to make sure that we haven’t inadvertently changed the meaning of the text. It is a painstaking process, but it is worth it to ensure that the Word of God is accurately and faithfully communicated to the Enga people.

By the way, if you have any idea of what ‘pete’ might mean, please let us know. Our best guess at this point is ‘hole’, which would mean that a ‘well’ in Enga is literally a ‘dug out water hole’.

The Abraham Story
During our five weeks in Wabag in August and September, we completed a draft of the Abraham story (Genesis 11:27–25:11). After returning to Ukarumpa, Adam and William Walewale, one of the Enga translators (whose daughter is pictured below), recorded the translation and loaded it onto solar-powered MP3 players for testing in Enga villages to ensure that the translation is natural and clear. While the Enga translators tested the translation in villages, Adam prepared the back translation of the story into English for consultant checking. By the end of this month village and consultant checking should be complete, and we will then finalize the story, record the final version, and publish it. In the meantime, we are currently in Wabag for another five weeks working on a draft of the book of Mark, which we hope to complete in early 2014!

Morning in Prayer
While the demands of being a full-time mom have made it difficult for Martha to be actively engaged in the work of language learning and translation at this point in her life, she has felt the Lord directing her to take a leadership role in Ukarumpa’s monthly Morning in Prayer service. Living together with other missionaries during our time in Ukarumpa, we are acutely aware of the need for prayer. As this community steps out in faith to do what God has called us to do, we often feel the spiritual oppression that seeks to oppose everything we do. Martha has seen the effectiveness of prayer in her own life and is convicted by the positive influence of people like her Aunt Ruth Summers who faithfully prays for others every day. As a result, Martha has taken the initiative to ensure that prayer is at the forefront of what we as a missionary community in Papua New Guinea are doing as part of our overall ministry of Bible translation. Please pray for Martha as she continues in this leadership role.

Lives Forever Changed Video
Newbreak Church has completed the first of three videos about our translation work among the Enga people here in Papua New Guinea. Go to to watch the video online. Thank you to Luke Shearer for coming to Papua New Guinea and capturing the heart of what we do!