Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A "dende" by any other name…

Tonight, I got to sit in on my first translation check. Rev. Michael Megahan called around 4:05PM and asked if I'd like to come to a check at 5PM. So, I freshened up and off I went.

We arrived at the Bible Society of Botswana office and hung around until enough people were there to start looking at the passages. The checkers ranged in age from 9 years old to senior citizen. Tonight, they were checking the recently translated Psalms 79-81, from 5PM until about 6:30PM. Most of the conversation was in Kalanga so I was pretty much out of the loop for most of it. Occasionally, Rev. Megahan would lean over and point out what the issue was, make a few notes on my paper.

As was inevitable in the process of translating the Psalms, the whole Hebrew instruments thing came up and questions were asked about the words chosen to represent those instruments. It was one thing for me to discuss in the abstract during those Sunday school and chapel sessions last fall how translation of instruments in Psalm 150 has been done. It's yet another thing to see people really wrestling in reality with the issues at hand before the Psalms hit the presses.

They're trying to teach me Kalanga, little bit by little bit. I don't know if I have the spelling right but I was taught a couple of greeting forms:

Ma muka tjini? - “How was your wake-up?”
Nda muka. - “I woke up well.”
A basic “How are you? I am fine.”

Ma shwa tjini? - “How did you spend?”
Nda shwa. - “I spent well.”
The thing that you spent could be your time, your energy. Basically, how was your day spent.

Their tone is pretty cool. Not only do the words have individual tone but the clauses, dependent and independent, have tone as well. It kind of messes with the tone of each word, morphs it into an overall tonal contour (for lack of a better word at this hour of night). Like, everything rises a bit, falls a bit back but further, rises a bit again, falls a bit further, repeat to end of clause. And depending on the type of clause, the last 3 syllables (or so) seem to have the same tonal melody as all other clauses of that type. At least, that's how it sounded to me, just sitting there in the room while the Psalms were being read in a language I don't understand yet. It was a bit like listening to someone scatting in jazz; I could pick out the tune because the words didn't get in the way.

No comments:

latest newsletter

blasts from the Dancing Sni's past…