Monday, March 04, 2013

Every language has its strengths

I've often pointed out to people that every language has its strengths and weaknesses. That is to say that some languages can say things in a single word that it takes other languages whole phrases added to include. Therefore, there are some passages in Scripture that can be more clear in new vernacular translations than it can even be in English. I've even said that things can be more clear than they are in the original. That statement may have gotten me the stink eye on occasion. Thank God, I now have an example of the kind of thing I'm talking about.

Carolyn and I are visiting with the Naro Language Project today, where the Khwedam Bible translation team is here for a consultant check of their translation of Genesis. They're working through Genesis 19 which, as you know, is full of men. Groups of men (the men of Sodom), pairs of men (the two angels), and a single man (Lot), to be exact. There's a string of verses - 19:4-11 - where men are described as doing and saying all kinds of things, without it being specifically stated which men are doing what. You can tell, pretty much, just by reading it who is doing what. But perhaps that's just my prejudice as I already know the story. It's hard to remember what you may not have known before you knew it, especially when you've learned it decades ago.

At any rate, when translating this section into English, the only pronouns we have for the men are "they" and "them". And, where the Hebrew just says "men", we can't specify which men without adding to the text; a limitation of English. Not so in Khwedam! The Khwedam language has a masculine pronoun for two people and a masculine pronoun for more than two people. So, when they translated Genesis 19:10, it is clear that the men who are dragging Lot into the house and shutting the door are the two angels, not the Sodom delegation.

OK, so people could probably figure out which men are which without a headcount being given by the pronoun. My point is just that even Hebrew doesn't tell you clearly which men are which in this section. So, in a sense (however minor), the Khwedam translation of this passage is more clear than the Hebrew original.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The beginning of the year

Well, this year is off to a strange start. It began with a break-in at the intern's house; some things were stolen and it was decided that she should move to a safer location (i.e. with dogs, barbed wire fence, and metal doors). It meant some trips to the police station, reports to insurance, and the like. She's still shaken up, I believe, but working on recovery. She fell ill this weekend, which we both suspect was the stress catching up to her.

I've been somewhat unwell myself. Not to get into any detail but I have been have some malfunctions in a certain organ (how's that for vague?). It has left me fatigued and stressed. Part of the last few weeks has been trying to find a way forward, health-wise, for the months before we head back to North America for our very-3-year trip. I'm trying a few dietary modifications and will keep you posted as to my success.

We're back in the translation project office these days and will be expanding our hours of being open as we ramp up for (hopefully) getting staff. Next week, we prepare for the WBTP advisory committee meeting that will be held on Saturday morning. My printer is busted so I'll be having to do a bit more mucking about than usual to get documents printed for the meeting. Oh well, I guess it means a trip to Francistown soon, to shop for a new printer.

Testing a theory

Wondering if I can just post to this blog from my iPhone.

latest newsletter

blasts from the Dancing Sni's past…