My take on the translation process…

by mendibpng

Above: Ben listens to discussions during devotions. Usually the translators take turns covering the passage they will be working on during their devotion time. Often they will interact with each other and talk about where they might have difficulty in translating the section.

At times the translation process has baffled me…how does one take a previously unwritten language and get into a readable form? How does that writing turn into God’s Word? This post is an attempt for me to speak about the process as simply as I can as the wife of a translator/linguist. I hope I can do it justice!

We have translators from ten language groups coming to a central location (Arop) in the Aitape West region of Papua New Guinea for workshops. Most of them walk, some coming from as close as a 30 minute walk away, others have to walk all day. We hold five or more workshops every year for four weeks at a time. Right now, Ben is in the last week of a translation workshop in Arop, working with his translators to get Acts ready for consultant checking

So the first major concept is our translators are trained by doing the work themselves. As the translators draft the Scriptures, they read them to each other and talk within their groups. When a difficult concept arises, they discuss it amongst themselves and with their advisor and work out a way to translate it. I’ve heard that they can find concepts like forgiveness and mercy to be difficult to put into a language that doesn’t have those terms. Each of the three groups is made up of language speakers who can understand each other, or at least their languages work in similar ways.

The translators use a program specially designed for them called Paratext. Whenever they input things into their databases, the program remembers what they put. It allows them to access this information for later times, which helps them speed up the translation process. Also this program provides a way to track when and if they make changes and also lets them write comments to each other as a group or to their advisors. I don’t really know how it works but it sounds amazing to me!

Ben is the Onnele advisor, so he sits with the three Onnele language groups. As much as they can, they make their translations similar; however, when something doesn’t make sense or doesn’t work in one of these languages, the translators are free to translate it differently. The advisors will then make comments into Paratext and the translators can interact with them and write notes back.

After going through advisor checks, the translation is ready for consultant checking. The consultant will sit down with our translators, their advisor and several speakers of the language who have not read the drafts. Then comes the comprehension testing and questions to make sure it is understandable and accurate.

Although I’ve simplified the wording of this process, it’s all rather complicated…the advisors and translators are learning about the linguistics of the languages we work with so that things are said in the proper way. They are also doing careful exegesis for the passages covered. Often the translators will ask Ben what the Greek text says, and they are also adept at using Translator’s Workplace, software that provides them with numerous notes and resources. We have been amazed by the dedication of our PNG coworkers, how they pour over commentaries and Bible dictionaries into the evening, until the generator power goes off for the night. They want to see God’s word speaking to their people, and they want to make sure they get it right.

And that, my friends, is my take on the translation process…


2 Comments to “My take on the translation process…”

  1. Very well written article. It will be valuable to anyone who employess it, including me. Keep doing what you are doing looking forward to more posts.

  2. I love this photo: a man sold out for God, listening for God’s voice through his Word and the Spirit, and doing all he can every day to see God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven. God says: “Benjamin, son of my right hand, I love you and am pleased with you.”

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