Wednesday, August 1, 2018

First Draft of Enga NT Complete!

On June 1, when Reverend Maniosa Yakasa of the Enga Bible Translation team completed his draft of the last nine verses of Ephesians, our first draft of the Enga New Testament was complete. We began drafting the Enga New Testament on October 21, 2013, and so the drafting process took us four years, seven months, and eleven days.

We started out drafting together as a team, working only part-time when I (Adam) was with the team in Enga. However, as the translators developed their translation skills, the team of six began working together full-time, even when I was not present with them. And the last few books the team drafted individually, sitting together at the translation table, but working to draft the books independently.

Although our first draft of the New Testament is now complete, there is still much work to be done to check our translation and prepare it for publication. Because the translators are now equipped to draft the translation independently, I am free to focus my efforts on the checking of the translation, which is just as time-consuming as drafting, if not more so. Nevertheless, we are nearly halfway through the checking process, and our goal is to publish the New Testament within the next three or four years. In the meantime, the translation team has begun drafting the Old Testament. They have nearly completed their first draft of Genesis, while also making significant progress on their first draft of the book of Exodus.

In the journey of ministry (and life), it is important to celebrate important milestones that we encounter along the way. While there is still much work yet to be done before we publish the Enga New Testament (not to mention the Old Testament), we invite you to join with us in celebrating this important milestone, because you have played an important role through your prayers and giving to help us reach this point. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your faithful support!

Presenting the gospels in Enga at a recent Scripture dedication ceremony
There Are No Words
To understand the difficulty of translating Scripture into a language like Enga, I want to give you a little exercise. Try retelling the following story without using any of the bolded words.

A man had two dogs. The first was named Spot and the second was named Fido. He liked Spot more than he liked Fido. One day the man needed to buy dog food, and so he went to the store and bought some. When he had returned home from the store, he wanted to put on his slippers, but he saw that Fido had chewed them up. And he said to Fido, “From now on, when I leave the house, I will lock you in a cage, until you learn not to chew up my slippers.”

You probably encountered some difficulties in trying to retell that story without using the words in bold, even though the story is quite simple. Enga does not have any of the words that are in bold, and so we would tell the story like this:

Two dogs of a man existed. The first was named Spot and the second was named Fido. He liked Spot. He really liked Fido. One day the potentiality for the man to buy dog food existed, and so he went to the store and bought some. When he had stood at the store and returned home, he was thinking, saying, “I shall put on my slippers,” but he saw that Fido had chewed them up. And he said to Fido, “Sitting at this time, when I leave the house, I will continue to lock you in a cage; when you learn not to chew up my slippers, I will not lock you in a cage again.”

This short exercise illustrates that when we translate even relatively basic stories from the Bible into Enga, we often encounter difficulties because of the differences in basic vocabulary. I am always surprised at the types of things that take a long time to translate, and I am often sitting there wondering why something that is so clear and obvious to me causes such challenges to the translation team. It is easy to forget about all the “bolded” words that they don’t have. (And of course, they have many “bolded” words that English does not have, which can make even basic speech difficult for me.)

By the way, in this brief example, I don’t even touch on the cultural background that most people in America would understand immediately, such as the fact that Spot and Fido are traditional names for dogs and that dogs chewing up slippers is a traditional problem of owning a pet dog. Of course, in Enga culture, a dog would never be permitted inside the house, and “slippers” would refer to what we would call “flip-flops.” And the idea that anybody would buy food for a dog would be considered ludicrous, as would the idea of keeping a dog in a cage when the owner is away from home. While finding the right words to use in translation is difficult, accounting for cultural assumptions in the biblical text can often be just as difficult