Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Go (Away) Steelers!

Earlier this month, I sent a thank you card to the pastor of my parents' church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Because we are in the heart of Steelers country, I thought it would be fun to say 'Go Steelers!' in Enga on the front of the card. You wouldn't think that translating 'Go Steelers!' would be all that difficult. After all, there are just two words, and I wasn't planning on translating 'Steelers', just the word 'Go'. However, the process to translate 'Go Steelers!' into Enga turned out to be much more complex than I had anticipated, and so I included in my thank you card an explanation of the translation process. I am reproducing part of the card below for your reading pleasure.

Dear Pastor David,

I wanted to send you, the staff, and the missions committee a postcard that said 'Go Steelers!' in Enga The problem is, if you translate 'Go' literally it would mean that you want the Steelers to go away, which isn't what we mean when we say 'Go Steelers!' So I decided to translate 'Win Steelers!', which is what I think we really mean when we say 'Go Steelers!'

But there is no single word for 'win' in Enga. Instead they use the idiom 'hold count'. This idiom is derived from the idea that the person who wins is the person who has the most votes or who 'holds the count' of the votes, and it has been extended to mean 'winning' in general.

But if you just say 'hold count', it applies only to the immediate timeframe, and, although sometimes when we say 'Go Steelers!' we are saying it in the immediate context of a particular play, when writing 'Go Steelers!' on a postcard, we are really talking about our general desire that the Steelers win all the time and not just at a particular moment. So instead of just saying 'hold count', we need to say 'hold count, huh'. That little 'huh' at the end makes it clear that we don't just want the Steelers to win in a particular moment but over a duration of time.

But the true word order in Enga would be 'count hold-huh' since the verb always comes last in a sentence. Also notice that 'huh' is hyphenated to 'hold' since in Enga they are just one word.

Finally, we must put 'Steelers' first since they are the ones being addressed. Although one could make the argument that this saying is not addressing the Steelers directly, but rather it is stating our desire that the Steelers 'hold count' without directly commanding them to do so, in which case another verb form would be required ('Let the Steelers hold count'). But let's assume that we are in fact meaning to address the Steelers themselves, regardless of whether or not they will ever read this postcard. That leaves us with...

Steelers, count hold-huh!

So we go from 'Go Steelers!' in English to 'Steelers, count hold-huh!' in Enga, which is actually 'Steelers, ita minalapape!' Imagine, now, that you are translating not 'Go Steelers!' but a difficult verse like Mark 9:49, which says, "For everyone will be salted with fire." No wonder Bible translation is such a difficult task! Yet it is well worth it for people to hear God's Word in the language that speaks to their hearts!

P.S. I'm still working on a translation of 'Deflategate'!

An Engan man wearing a Steelers jersey in Wabag town