Friday, October 28, 2011

jealousy and mandrakes

This morning was very refreshing for me (Susan).  The Imbo-Ungu translation team is here in Ukarumpa this week for a work period.  It is often very hard for translators to get translation work done in the village because of so many other responsibilities and distractions.  So we invited several teams to come to Ukarumpa for two weeks to have some time to give their undivided attention to their translation work.  Kerry, Jonathan and Rombe have been working hard all week translating rough drafts on their own, but today they wanted to have an advisor check on chapter 30 of Genesis. 

There are many steps in getting translated Scriptures to the point where they are ready for publication.  The translation is checked over several times by different people along the way.  The advisor check is generally when someone other than the translators takes a good hard look at the first draft of the translation.  And this morning I got to be one of the advisors helping to go through the chapter.

Kerry had already provided a “back translation” of the text.  Basically, she translated the Imbo-Ungu text back into English for us whiteskins to read.  We sat around a table heaped with different versions of the Bible, commentaries, and of course, laptop computers, and we went through the text verse by verse, asking the translators to explain anything that was ambiguous, or asking about parts where we weren’t sure that their translation captured the actual meaning of the text.  I was pleased to realize that I still remembered quite a bit about the Imbo-Ungu language.  I’m very far from being able to speak the language, but I know enough to be able to recognize key words and the little markers that show things like possession, or who the subject is in the sentence.

Genesis 30 is all about Jacob’s wives, Leah and Rachel, and their struggles over bearing children.  One of the issues that came up was the word they chose to translate jealousy.  We asked them to give examples of various situations in which they would use that word in their language, in order to determine if it was fitting for the Biblical situation they were trying to portray.  That wasn’t too difficult.

Other passages proved to be more of a challenge.  It was harder to translate verse 3, where Rachel gives her maidservant Bilhah to Jacob, telling him to “sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and that through her I too can build a family.”  We had to make sure that it was understood that even through Bilhah was the biological mother, the children would be seen as Rachel’s.

And then of course is the whole bit about Leah buying the rights to sleep with Jacob with a bunch of mandrakes.  That turned into a long discussion, because of course the Imbo-Ungu had no idea what a mandrake was.  They had originally translated it as “grass seed.”  Thankfully Ruth, one of the other advisors present, had done some research and came prepared with a drawing of a mandrake plant, and the explanation that the Hebrews thought that the mandrake held medicinal (or magical) powers to help a woman to conceive.

It’s has been far too long since I’ve been involved in an advisor check, and I’d almost forgotten how much fun it can be.  At this point in my life, with a small toddler at home, it’s hard to be involved in this kind of work.  Typically when a team comes here for an advisor check, it’s the sort of thing where you all work very very hard for a week or so, and then the team goes back to the village.  Our daycare here at Ukarumpa is only open 4 mornings per week.  And even if I arranged for other childcare in the afternoons, it would be hard on Greg not to see his mom all week long.  (It would be hard on mom too!).  But, as I left this morning, Kerry said she hopes we can arrange another time to get together to do more advisor checking, since they have done a lot of first draft work that needs to go through an advisor check before they can move towards getting it checked by a consultant and eventually published.  So pray that we can find a workable solution – I’d like to be able to do some more of this!

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