Friday, July 31, 2009

Translating Biblical Phrases Part 2

It is quite obvious that translating from one language to another poses many problems: some words simply do not have any direct equivalent in the receptor language, some expressions are idiomatic and cannot be translated literally, some verb tenses simply cannot be translated as such, etc.

In one part of Africa, revenge is such a normal part of life that there isn’t even a word for forgiveness in the language. However, if you want to make it quite clear that you forgive someone who has wronged you and have no intention of taking revenge, you go to the offender and ‘spit out the wrong’, spitting a mouthful of water over them. So the phrase, “
God will forgive your sins,” (Mark 1:4) was translated, “God will spit your sins out over you.” When one old man heard this, he said, “Ah! Now I understand it! Sin is actually something important to God! What’s more, when He forgives us, He really means it!”

For the Gbeapo people of Liberia, the word "prophet" was translated as "God’s town-crier" a person the people were well familiar with in their own villages because he is the man who goes through the village every morning and evening to deliver the orders of the chief and announce important coming events.

For the Karré people of French equatorial Africa, the best way to translate "
comforter" (paraclete) was to use the expression "the one who falls down besides us" because in their country, when a porter carrying a heavy load would collapse on his way and be in danger of being eaten by wild beasts, the person who would fall down beside the exhausted traveler to encourage him to go on, was a "comforter."

1 comment:

  1. I love to see how things get translated into different languages. It adds new perspective.