Story and photo by John Nystrom
When the best translation for a phrase isn’t clear to the translation team, sometimes a local language expert can help. Indigenous speakers understand the language and the culture better than anyone and can suggest ways to make the verse communicate clearly to the hearts of the people.
In the Sepik region of PNG, several people gathered to conduct the final checking on the books of I, II, and III John and Jude. They were challenged to find the best way to write the description of a believer’s intimate union with Christ. The writer of I John says we are “in Him.” That’s easy to express in English, but not in languages that only use “in” for things inside other things, but don’t use it in a metaphorical way. How would you express this concept without using the word “in”?
Unsure how to translate this, the team asked Wolwale local language expert Philip Musi for advice. Philip explained while demonstrating by putting his hand firmly to a nearby post, “It’s like a lizard who has really stuck himself to a tree.” Everyone in the room knew exactly what that looked like.
Now the revised draft of 1 John 2:28a in the Onnele Wolwale language reads: Kongkom uporo kinini, pone samo pangkana ka samo paipe fori uporo plau God.
A rough English back translation is: My good children, you-all really stick to and really remain good friends with God.
Pray for the Onnele Wolwale translators and others like them to remain “really stuck to God” as they continue translating his Word.