Flick through your Bible and you’ll probably find quite a few words that the translators never really translated. They’ve just been made a bit English-y. Think of words like ‘apostle’ or ‘parable’ or even ‘Bible’. When you read the Bible, you probably don’t even notice.
But when a language group hasn’t had these words for hundreds of years, sticking in an untranslated word (or a word that’s been translated, but into a different language) isn’t particularly helpful. Jacob, who is working with a translation project in Kenya, explains how they solved a problem like this when working out how to say ‘disciple’ (we take that word straight from the Latin):
During the key biblical terms workshop in July the team battled with the word ‘disciple’. The team had initially been using the word ‘mwanafunzi’ which is a borrowing from Swahili, a related language. But after more discussions and inquiry from the community testers, they came up with the word ‘maûlû’, which literally means ‘legs’.
The word ‘maûlû’ was used in olden days in the community to mean apprentice. It was used for anyone who wanted to learn the skills in traditional medicine, how to become a blacksmith or other trades in the community.
The community members have no problem getting the meaning of the term now that we are using ‘maûlû’.
This project is one of many that is supported directly by people in the UK. If you would like to find out more about supporting a team who are translating God’s word into their language for the very first time, you can find out more here.