Translation Takes Time

Story: Karen Weaver
Photo Credit: Jessica Thiessen

“Zechariah was trying to trick people with his hand motions!”

Several months after the Ranmo translation team had completed the first draft of Luke 1, they invited a local translator who had not been involved in the drafting and asked him to translate the text back into English, called a back translation. When he did this, he concluded that Zechariah was trying to trick people with his hand motions.

This was not the meaning the team intended to communicate. Having the opportunity to see how other Ranmo speakers would understand the passage allowed the team to make some minor changes in the wording that resulted in a major difference in people’s interpretation of the text.

In addition, the back translation will allow a trained consultant from outside the language area to check the literal translation of the passage. In this way, the team can be assured that it is not only understood by the local people, but also true to the original meaning. Doing both of these things for every passage of the Bible takes time but is one of the many invaluable steps in insuring an accurate translation which has the power to speak God’s truth to the hearts of the people.

 

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