Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Go ahead, make my day...

During translation this afternoon, Sarah laughed when she was reading a certain passage, the part about Jesus healing the slave's ear after one of his disciples lops it off during Jesus' arrest. I asked what was so funny. She told me about the “Jesus” film in Setswana, which was shown in her village a few years ago when she was in grade school. She was just remembering the Setswana voice of Jesus in that film. Apparently the Jesus character was a big hit with the children for his fearless voice. She imitated it for me, shades of Dirty Harry, to my ears. Still, not wanting to jump to any cultural conclusions, I asked what kind of man would have a voice like that. She said that it would be a man who didn't fear anything. Yup - Dirty Harry.

Interestingly, the most quoted scene by the small boys in Ikoga is the scene where they ask Jesus about the rightness of paying taxes and he asks for a coin, gives a little object lesson. They go around huskily saying to each other, “Fa a le jalo ntshetsang Kaesare, dilo tse e lang tsa ga Kaesare, le Modimo tse e lang Modimo.” (Luke 20:25) Frankly, I'm impressed that they remember that after just one hearing. Sarah has commented a couple of times, actually, that she'd like to see that film more. She wonders why they only came to show it once.

Before she left, I got out my “Jesus of Nazareth” dvd, showed her a few scenes. We started with the dance of Salome (the one my sisters and I imitate to this day). She enjoyed it; it certainly brings the whole Herod-John-Herodias situation to life. Then, before she left for the day, I showed her the “Talitha koumi” scene. We had had some talk during the translation of that account in Mark about why keeping the Aramaic words as they are happens in all language translations. But, today, when she “saw” Jesus, saying the words, as soon as she heard him say them, she said, “Oh!” She recognized the phrase and, suddenly, including it in the Shiyeyi translation made sense. It occurred to me briefly that perhaps we could be watching little “Jesus of Nazareth” clips for each appropriate translation passage. Rob pointed out to me how horrified most translators would be at that idea. I'm on the fence, actually. I think that particular film does a lot of “fleshing out”, particularly in cultural setting.

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