I think all of us agree that translating Scripture is not an easy job. The language systems we use to communicate are unique and complex. Bible translators are constantly studying, questioning, learning, evaluating and re-evaluating as they serve with language teams to produce a quality Bible translation.
Adapting to a new culture and language can be intense and sometimes frustrating. But… not always. Language and culture learning have their humorous side as well. Sometimes the day-to-day occurrences provide valuable unexpected lessons.
Rev. Rich Rudowske—now LBT’s Director for Program Ministries— was the first LBT missionary to serve with the Shekgalagari team in Botswana. He shared this experience from a number of years ago.
We get quite a few animal visitors at the Shekgalagari Bible Translation Project office. Recently a goat poked its head in and I ‘shooed’ it away. A little while later, a dog wandered in, and it also was ‘shooed’. The translation staff began to laugh and asked if in English we only had one word to address animals. The very idea of it was funny to them because in Shekgalagari you would never use the same word to shoo a goat as you would a dog. For a goat you say ‘tshoe’, but for a dog you say ‘gkaite’.
A little while later, a rooster stuck his head in, and both translators shouted ‘khipi’, the word reserved for chickens. When I told them later that a cow had gotten into my yard and refused to move when I said ‘tshoe’, they said that cows don’t understand that goat word, they only know ‘tlha’.
The moral of the story: know your audience and speak their language…
What we have here is an example of someone who has been living in a community for a number of years receiving a language and culture lesson without even trying. It’s also a rather lighthearted way of pointing out how important it is to use the right words to correctly convey a message. If you want people to know what you mean you must use a language they comprehend. The more complex the message the more focused and deliberate the words. There is no impact, no change, without initial understanding.
The Shekgalagari New Testament is moving nearer to completion because people like you believe that everyone should be able to read and hear and clearly understand God’s message. Your gifts and prayers support work in over 70 language communities, each with the desire to engage with Scripture through the language they know best. To learn more about these fascinating people and places, click here and also visit us on Facebook.