Translation – and especially translating something as important as the Bible – is never straightforward, but you might be surprised by the words that have been challenging the Bena team in Tanzania. Researching how words are used in context is essential as Elizabeth, their translation advisor, illustrates…
One challenging section was the persistent widow story. The Bena have no word for ‘justice’. There was a loan word from the national language Swahili (‘ihaki’) in the text, which the Bena replaced as they know the reviewers won’t accept loan words. We tweaked this verse with the words in bold and came up with
‘…neke kangi pakuva umufwile uyu akufwahidza mbandu, lino ndikumutanga ukupata fye ivagila, ukuta atane ukundaasa mbepali!’
which roughly translates as ‘…but because this widow is really bothering me, now I will help her get as she deserves, so that she won’t bother me again!’ (Luke 18:5) This was the best we could do with ‘justice’.
The Bena word for Sabbath is ‘Nyuwabaaha’ which means a day of rest but could refer to any day of the week, not necessarily Saturday.
There are currently two dialectal variations of the verb ‘to heal’ in the text – ‘kuhooswa’ and ‘kunaniya’ – but one word throughout which everyone understands would be the best.
Pray for the Bena team: the consultant will be checking the last section of Luke very soon.
Getting words like this right is incredibly important if a translation is going to communicate clearly and accurately, and be well used. If examples like this get you eager to support translation, find out more about how you could be involved.