Sunday, January 5, 2014

Translating Jita Jonah (part 3)

This is part 3 of a series about how we translated the book of Jonah into the Jita language.
Step 1 - DRAFTING - the Jita translators adapted the text from Swahili into Jita.
Step 2 - TRANSLATION ADVISOR CHECKING - I studied the text to make sure that the meaning of God's Word was communicated clearly, accurately and naturally. I discussed the text with the translators and we made improvements.


This step takes different forms for different teams and different projects. Sometimes, we go out to the village and gather a group of Jita speakers. For the book of Jonah, we invited Jita speakers to travel from their villages into our office in Musoma. We read the book of Jonah in Jita and then asked questions to make sure that the average listener would understand the meaning of the text. We also asked the participants to help us discover the best Jita words in certain contexts.

Here are some examples of what we learned...

Jonah 1:4 "the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest." The Jita translators were struggling with the right Jita word to translate "tempest." They knew that many Jita people are fishermen and would therefore have various terms for storms at sea. Therefore, they decided to ask the community. The testers said they use [rikubuji] for a crazy gust of wind and [echiiwure] for a fierce wind that lasts for a while. The translators decided to use [echiiwure].

Jonah 1:9-10 "Jonah said, 'I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.' Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, 'What is this that you have done!' For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them."

This method of ordering events with the past perfect tense flashback idea is VERY difficult to say in Jita. We asked the Jita community to help us with a better wording. We decided to say...

"Jonah said, 'I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.' And then he continued to tell them, 'I am running from the LORD.' When the sailors heard this, they were exceedingly afraid. They said to him, 'Why have you done this thing?'"

All of our testers understood the order of events perfectly.

Jonah 4:2 "I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful." The Jita translators have been struggling for a long time finding the right Jita word for "grace." Grace is the unmerited favor of God toward man, an undeserved gift from God to man. That concept is not readily accessible in Jita culture (another reason why they NEED Scripture!!). We asked the community testers and the testers suggested [obhwitiriranya] which seems to fit very well.

PRAISE GOD that now Jita people can read about God's grace in their own language!

Jonah 4:6 "Now the LORD God appointed a plant." I thought the word "plant" was simple enough, but the Jita translators were trying to find a word for a plant which would grow up and spread out and provide shade. The three Swahili versions each used a different word. One said "plant," one said "grape vine" and one said "cucumber plant." Therefore, we asked the community. I showed photos like this... help the testers think of the best term. The Jita have a word for "a thing which grows after being planted intentionally" and a different word for "a thing which grows after being planted unintentionally." Unfortunately, neither of these words really fits in the context. Finally, after much discussion, we settled on "small tree." I think that will work just fine.

These community tests are great opportunities for us to share our passion for God's Word and our work in Bible translation. Pray with us that God will use these community tests to get people excited about reading God's Word in their own language.

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