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Is that really the correct way to spell that word?!

October 20, 2010

A group of community leaders sit on the split palm floor, men on one side, women on the other. Someone reads from a printed page, the rest of the group follow along from the pages in front of each of them. For most of the group, this is the first time that they are reading this story in their own language. It is the Christmas story, but mostly they have only heard or read it in the more widely used trade language. Some of the people know quite a bit of the trade language, some know little to none of the trade language. When they read or hear the story in their own language, they often remark about how much better they understand what is happening. “I never knew what that verse meant before!”

That is what happened once again in Walagu village, for the Onobasulu people this week, as we checked the first 4 chapters of Luke’s Gospel. ‘Village checking’ is one of the middle stages of drafting, editing, and re-checking the translated scripture. Like any writing or translation work, the first draft is usually not quite right. So, we go over all of the verses again. We also do an exegetical check. This makes sure that everything is there, and that nothing got left out. We also check our translation of key religious terms or content that is very heavy in Jewish culture (probably very different from Onobasulu culture!). We have a main team of 4 Onobasulu men that are the co-translators (more about them later).
For the village checking, it is church and community leaders that have not been yet involved in the translation of that passage. They are also the ones who sign-off on our choices of words and phrases for those religious terms and correct spelling. Amazingly, this week, quite a few spelling issues came up. Some we settled, some are still being discussed and thought about, with input from the literacy workers.
Our next stage will be to make another translation from the Onobasulu back into English. This preserves the Onobasulu flavor, and also explains our choices of the religious terms. An outside translation consultant will read through looking for potential problems. Later that consultant will interact with other Onobasulu (who have not yet seen or read these passages) and ask them comprehension questions on the text. Then one more read through for anything that we may have missed, or if a mistake got inserted in all of the changes. Then the text will be ready to format and print.
Are you tired yet? Does your head hurt? Our heads do hurt some days. But when we hear how excited the new readers are when they really understand, that makes the hard days worthwhile. Recently, just a few chapters were read and made into audio files. We have some trial copies of these out to be tested on special players. One older man told his nephew, “I want to buy the first one of these!” That nephew is one of the translators, and he was encouraged that our years of hard work were worth the effort.

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