Making it clear

Posted on Posted in Translation

By Martha Wade

“These ancestors of yours they, this food named manna, they were being in a place having no men and ate it, and they died-fell.”

After hearing this back translation of John 6:49 during a checking session, I felt a bit uneasy. So I asked the translation checkers, “Why did the people die?” The translation checkers said, “They died because they ate the food called manna.” As I pondered how to respond in depth to that, I told them that they didn’t die because of eating the food; they ate the food manna, and then died at a later time. At first they were just going to add the simple word “later,” but then I asked whether people who are attacked by sorcerers or poisoned die immediately or later. I told them that in a different area the sorcerer sets a date and the death occurs at that appointed time. By then the translation team was laughing and saying, “Yes, we do the same thing.” As a result of this conversation, I encouraged them to add something in the text to separate the eating and the dying. They added something about years passing before they died so it will be less likely to appear as though God was poisoning his own people with this food called “manna.”

This is just one of many translation problems encountered while checking the book of John. Pray that God’s Spirit will help consultants and advisors to identify and correct translation problems like these.

Martha is a Bible translator serving the Apal language group.

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