Making the Translation Understandable
This week’s article was written by Kirk and Yolanda Rogers. They minister among the Landuma people in West Africa.
Kirk and [their Landuma helper] translated the book of Romans quite a while back, but the translated draft needs to be put through several checks before we can be confident that it truly meets our high standard for accuracy, clarity and naturalness. One of the checks we do is to verify that the translation is readily understood.
A Comprehension Check
In the comprehension check, Kirk reads portions of Scripture to the helper, and the helper tells what he understands the passage to mean. Some of the portions are quickly understood, and the helper is able to tell back the meaning easily. Others turn out to be a bit ‘information-dense.’ Though the Landuma grammar is correct and all the words are familiar to them, some concepts in the passage may be very strange, foreign to a Landuma person’s way of thinking. The comprehension check brings these problem portions to light. Once identified, we look for better ways to express the thought so that the average Landuma person will more readily understand.
“Much of Romans consists of Paul answering expected questions and objections to his teaching in the letter. He was a veteran preacher, teacher and debater. Thanks to his years of experience preaching the Word of God, he knew well the typical questions his teaching would raise. However, many of these questions are not ones that Landuma people would ever think of or be concerned about. So, a Landuma person reading or listening to Romans may come away wondering, ‘Why would anyone ask that? Why did Paul answer it that way? Does that answer even make sense?’
Please, No Mystery
Expressing these God-inspired questions and answers in a way that is clear and meaningful to a Landuma person is quite a challenge! Chasing down answers as to why any ‘mysterious’ passage is worded as it is and what God is really trying to communicate to us there is a worthy course of study to pursue for any believer! As one Bible scholar said about such passages, ‘If it’s weird, it’s important.’ Now, maybe that isn’t always true, but it often is.
So please pray for us as we do this nearly impossible task of first understanding it ourselves, and then making it understandable to the Landumas!