The need for translation …
A little girl, after just completing her class 6 English exam, asks Lyndal, “Are you from Australia?” Yes. “Do you know English?” Yes. “When you and Ross are talking, what do you speak?” English. “Aah,” (sympathetically) “so you don’t have a language? So, what do you say if you want him to come?”
Ross and Lyndal Webb with the Lewo on Epi Island, Vanuatu
Excerpt from Facebook post
This reflects the perception of the English language as a tool for education, not as a means of communicating within the context of relationship. Scripture must be more than a tool…. it is the very word of God to His children.
The challenge of translation …
As the Nimboran mother- tongue translators drafted the Lord’s Prayer together, they had to grapple with what each line actually means in order to express it clearly in their language – a ‘literal’ translation would make little sense. The compressed language of ‘your kingdom come’ proved difficult.
A kingdom typically features a king, a people and a country. There is no word for kingdom in Nimboran – they have no king, but many chiefs, each chief having jurisdiction over one clan. Furthermore, a Nimboran ‘chiefdom’ (there is no word for that either) is not entirely geographical since more than one clan can live in one area.
So what does that line mean, and how can it be translated? When we speak of God’s kingdom coming, we mean the full realisation of his kingly reign on earth.
So, their first draft read ‘Come on, you become chief!’ But does that adequately convey the original meaning? Over whom are we asking God to reign? Just his clan, or all people? And where, and when? The current draft (including ‘your will be done’ too) says ‘Come on, you become chief over us, you say the word!’
What do you mean when you pray those familiar opening lines?
Philip Swan working with the Nimboran people of Papua, Indonesia
Excerpt from Wycliffe Today, Spring 2016
The impact of translation …
Toli, a middle-aged man and one of the elders: “When a few years ago, I got a printed copy of the Gospel of Mark, I cried because I don’t know how to read. I prayed. I got a MegaVoice one and a half years ago. Now the message is clear. I listen to it daily. Now I’m like a man who knows how to read. Now I’m like a pastor.”
Mogome, a middle-aged woman: “I heard the story of Zacchaeus, the short man who climbed up on a tree to see Jesus. That story spoke to my heart. He was not a good man, and I’m not a good woman. I want to change a few things in my life. I need to pray.”
Markus and Liisa Melliger working with the Pinai-Hagahai people of Enga Province, Papua New Guinea
Excerpt from Words for life, Winter 2011
Glossary – MegaVoice – a solar powered audio player to share God’s Word
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light to my path. Psalm 119 v 105
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