Did you ever play telephone? The first person whispers a phrase or story to a second person who then whispers it to a third person and so on. The fun part comes when the last person to hear the story repeats it for all to hear. Almost inevitably, what the last person relates will not be the same thing the first person whispered. The words and the meaning often change radically.
If this happens when people are speaking the same language, think of the possibility for miscommunication when something is quickly translated from one language to a second language and then to a third. Sometimes a word in one language can have multiple meanings in another. Then add in cultural differences and variations in grammar. Try out the included exercise to see just how challenging it is to switch from one language to another.
Speak to the heart
Clear communication is important in any relationship, and essential when God communicates to us. Scripture tells us there is one Creator, one Savior, one path to eternal life. When people are to put their trust in God, live as Christ taught us, and share the Good News, Scripture must speak directly to their hearts and minds in terms that are unmistakable and unambiguous.
A great need
Lutheran Bible Translators missionaries Rev. Andrew and Alexis Olson recently joined the new Kerewe Translation Project in Tanzania, where Kerewe speakers have been leaving the church because they can’t understand what is being preached. Someday they will no longer have to rely on unfamiliar words to access Scripture. They’ll be able to read and hear God’s Word in their own language, the language of emotion, song, and heart.
But the need remains – there are still no words that clearly communicate Scripture to mother tongue speakers of almost 3,000 of the world’s 7,000 languages.