Looking for Legs

Posted on Posted in Translation

By Jill Riepe

Looking for Legs

During my first year in Samban I worked with the Ap Ma to translate and revise several shell books. These books are set up to be very simple to translate. The pictures are already there and all you have to do is insert the text. One of the books that I set out to revise was called “Looking for Legs” or Sipag Ladup. I already had a translated version, but I needed to check to make sure that it was written in good Ap Ma. I gave it to one of my language helpers to look over. She made some significant changes which gave me insight into the Ap Ma culture.

​In this book, a boy goes on a walk and counts legs for each of the creatures that he encounters. The first creature he encounters is a snake (kobe). The snake has no legs. Then, the boy sees a bird (awon). The bird has two legs. The boy finds a rat (lebon) which has two arms and two legs. Wait a minute! Doesn’t a rat have four legs? Not in Ap Ma. They view rats as having two arms and two legs. Ants (yilii) have two arms and four legs. Spiders (pebçla) have four arms and four legs. Whoever first translated this shell book had simply followed the Tok Pisin. But in order for this book to be really translated into Ap Ma, it needed to reflect the Ap Ma’s view of how many legs and arms creatures have. These insights into the Ap Ma culture will help us as we translate the Bible. Simple little things like this make the difference between the Bible sounding foreign and strange or natural and clear.

Jill is a Bible translator serving the Ap Ma language group.

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