Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thieving boys and jilted wives

We were checking the translation of the young rich man who came to Jesus and asked what he could do to inherit eternal life. Mr. Hakudze had used the word yanga to describe how the young man was feeling when Jesus told him what he had to do (see Mark 10). Sarah knew that ku yanga means 'to tie' but she wasn't sure what it could mean with reference to someone's feelings. So, she called Mr. Kauthemwa, one of the chiefs in Sepopa, whom we often call for deeper Shiyeyi meanings. Sarah was talking to him and then she started laughing, hung up the phone. I asked her what was going on and she said that he had been explaining yanga to her and, suddenly, he was shouting at some small boys. Then, she could hear him running, the phone still on, as if he was running and holding the cellphone in his fist. Then, nothing.

She called back later to see what had been going on. Apparently, he was answering her question on yanga while working in his garden. His garden has tomatoes, watermelon, spinach, lots of things. He was crouched down, working, while he talked to us and so he couldn't easily be seen in the garden. He was in the middle of explaining that “yanga is like when you are married and your husband leaves you and goes with another woman. To feel that feeling, that is ku yanga. Another example is... Hey! You! Small boys! What are you doing?!” Suddenly, he had seen some small boys at the other end of his garden. They had climbed over his wall and, not seeing him there crouched among the plants, had begun to eat his tomatoes and take his watermelons. When he noticed them and began to shout, they ran to the wall and climbed over to run away. He began to chase them, which is what Sarah heard.

Ah, the comic realities of today's translation work - a far cry from the image I took away from translation training. Kind of wild to imagine having cellphone consultants, sharing their linguistic treasure while they govern in the kgotla and weed among the watermelons.

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