The Devil is in the Details

Posted on Posted in Translation

By Lindy Pate

I’ve just got in from dashing outside. We had a sudden rain burst and needed to rescue the almost dry clothes off the line. I’ve been gradually adjusting to life in PNG. Remembering to think ‘laundry!’ at the sound of rain on a tin roof. The little details of life here are coming back.

I wanted to share another small detail with you—about translation work—but first I have to teach you a linguistic term. Participant tracking. It is a fancy term to talk about the way that characters get introduced in a story. When is the proper noun used? When is a pronoun used? When does the ending on the verb provide enough information that you don’t need a pronoun?  

Think about the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Goldilocks went into the forest one day. As she was going, she noticed a cabin in the woods.

Now if I used Goldilocks name every time instead of she, the story would sound weird. Goldilocks went into the forest one day. As Goldilocks was going, Goldilocks noticed a cabin in the woods.

So, switch to Revelation 20:7-8. In the Kaluli translation, Satan was mentioned by his full name in both verses. I asked if there was a reason for that. The translation team made a note that a pronoun could probably be used in verse 8. It may be a small adjustment, but those details can combine to make scripture sound natural or weird. In translation work, the devil is in the details.

Lindy spends her time waiting for the Lord to provide her with a teammate so that she can learn a local language. In the meantime, she uses her linguistic and translation training to serve however she can.

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