I’m starting to notice that I’m becoming institutionalised. Three years ago, as a newbie with Wycliffe Bible Translators, I found everything new, exciting and amazingly interesting. Now, after being asked for the… well, I’ve lost count… time, which version of the Bible we translate, I’m just wondering if what I accept as blindingly obvious is really so far off the radar of everyone else that we should be making more of it.
For example, the New Scientist has published an article about the fact that the concept of time isn’t necessarily viewed in the same way by every culture.
“HERE and now”, “Back in the 1950s”, “Going forward”… Western languages are full of spatial metaphors for time, and whether you are, say, British, French or German, you no doubt think of the past as behind you and the future as stretching out ahead. Time is a straight line that runs through your body.
Once thought to be universal, this “embodied cognition of time” is in fact strictly cultural. Over the past decade, encounters with various remote tribal societies have revealed a rich diversity of the ways in which humans relate to time (see “Attitudes across the latitudes”). The latest, coming from the Yupno people of Papua New Guinea, is perhaps the most remarkable. Time for the Yupno flows uphill and is not even linear.
Read the full article here
Once I would have found that really interesting, now I just think ‘Duh! Isn’t that obvious?’. Especially as Sue Pearson gave a presentation on this very theme in a public lecture at Wycliffe last year.
But Bible translation takes more than just sitting down with a native speaker and a Bible. Multiple obstacles must be hurdled. And the hurdles may look different than you think.
In the Philippines, the obstacles don’t necessarily come in the form of government limitations or even in lack of willing missionaries. Sometimes challenges come in packages as simple as transportation.
- Languages aren’t the same. Some countries have no words for snow, while others have more than one. We may think that the heart is the home for our emotions, others think it’s their liver. Bible translation isn’t as easy as substituting one word for another – if you do you could be communicating the very opposite of what you intend to say. (More info here)
- Bible translation… missions… don’t just rely on the skills and abilities of a few talented individuals. We need people who can build runways too. Actually, teaching (western kids in western style schools in English), IT, Marketing Communications, video editing, project management, accounting, are all valuable skills without which we are sunk. Do you think you need a MTh to be any use overseas? Someone who can repair a car engine or keep track of the money are just as (if not more) desperately needed. (More info here)
And, in case you were wondering, the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, not English – so which version do you think we would translate? (More info here)