It is not a simple matter to translate a Bible story—there are many cultural and grammatical (as well as exegetical) features to consider when choosing the “best” way to translate a text. This story of John 11:28-44 in West Kewa, which we take up at verse 28, points out a number of the components (but by no means all of them):
\v 28 Marta-me gupa lakeloa sana nipuna aki Maria-para pawasi yaaloa pua lakesa: Tisaa epa pirua ne yaata-ga pu lade sa.
After Martha said this she called softly to her sister Mary and said: The teacher has come and he has called for you.
- Names: Martha and Mary: Decision on spelling proper names: should it be as the Kewa pronounce them or as they appear in the source Tok Pisin or English text?
- Action: there are successive by the same subject (Jesus, who has come and who has called for Mary)
- Sibling relationships: female siblings are called aki; Opposite sex siblings are called bani; Male siblings of the same sex are ame, but an opposite sex sibling is again bani. So in the translation Martha refers to her sister as her aki.
- To “call” is to “yell/shout”, but it must be done “easily” or “carefully”. Martha is not shouting at Mary.
- Tisaa is simply a loan from Pidgin.
- –ga shows the reason for the action—“since he has called for you”
- yaata: he called for you, marked by the Benefactive verb
- la-de: he said it, indicating that the action is complete (the completive aspect)
- The quotation of what Martha said to Mary is marked by sa
\v 29 Maria nipumi go agaa pagoa Yesu aipapulu madaama pisa.
Mary heard this and she went quickly to meet Jesus.
- The Agent/Subject/ or Instrument are all marked the same: In this case it is Mary who is the agent, so she (Maria) is marked by –mi on the pronoun that refers to her
- Deictics show the direction of the actions or location of the items: go/mo/so/no markers; in this case go tells us that it is a particular talk that Mary heard
- aipapulu: shows that Jesus left quickly
- madaa: is a reciprocal verb “meeting someone”, indicating that Mary went to meet Jesus
- Remote tense: to indicate that the story is being told sometime later
\v 30 Yesu nipu adaare-para abi naopapasa pare aba Marta nipu lapo madaasipi-para aasa.
Jesus had not come to the village but he waited at the place he and Martha had met.
- Cluster of houses is used for a “village”; traditionally there were none
- One “comes up” (like a plant) to indicate the arrival at a village
- The two of them, i.e., both (duality of number); not “two” as a numeral
- Cultural counting: descriptions may be by using the body part system, 4 base system, or the decimal system
- Verb “to be” forms: choose aa “to stand”, pira “to sit”, or sa “to put”, etc., according to certain semantic features
\v 31 Gore Maria rekoa pisa rabu Juda aanumi nipuna pu robaa-para makuma patalo pirisimi-pulu Maria rata mea pisimi. Nimumi Maria matmat-para re ta polalo pula kone isimi.
When Mary got up to go, the Jews who had come to comfort her followed her. They thought that Mary was going to the grave to cry.
- Mary got up and went (same subject marker) interrupted by temporal marker
- Jewish men = people (women are included in a patrilineal society)
- Emotions: cause her stomach and liver to be soft or tame
- Purpose: –pulu, showing they followed after her because they still wanted to comfort her
- Verb Phrase: rata mea = follow take, that is “to take leave”
- Pronoun: nimu (they, with agent marker -mi)
- matmat “grave”, a Tok Pisin loan
- wanting to go and cry (re ta polalo pula kone isimi, literally: cry say wanting.to.go go.purpose though having..they)
- they thought: “they put their thoughts”, i.e. “they gathered their thoughts”
- nimu… mi (pronoun and verb agreement, indicated by the suffix that marks person, number and tense)
\v 32 Maria Yesu pirisa-nane pua nipu adoare kibu ripinaaba pirua lalo: Aa Mudu, ne go su-para epa pirita pae yaalore nina baani mada naomala paa kone salo sa.
Mary went to where Jesus was and when she saw him she knelt down and said: Lord, supposing that you had come here before, I don’t believe that my sibling would have died.
- Grasping his shins = lowering herself in to a subjective position
- Head man: literally, “a pointed man”
- pirita pae: wanting to sit together, indicating her closeness to Jesus
- yalore: indicates a contra-factual circumstance =if you would have been here with us (didn’t happen) then… (would happen)
- naomala paa “he just would not have died”: literally, negative-die make-he did
- thoughts putting she said
- Gender, indicating he was a cross-sibling
\v 33 Yesumi Maria-para Juda aanu nimu raapu pirua re lala pirina adesa. Goa pua nipuna robaa-para kedaa pua nipuna pu o sa.
Jesus saw Mary and the Jews who were with her crying. Then he was sad and he cried.
- The Jews who were together saw that he (different subject) continued to cry, literally, cry cry sitting.
- His stomach it was heavy and his liver was bad, indicating the degree of sorrow
- Stomach and liver as emotional centers, not the heart
\v 34 Go raburi nipumi nimu-para lalo: Nipu aa-para rogaarimi ya?
Then he said to them: Where have you buried him?
- He said to them: the same marker denotes -at, to, or in
- Rogaarimi: they bound him, the traditional manner of burial
- Question form ya expects an answer
\v 35&36 Nimumi lalo: Aa Mudu, epa ada simi. Yesumi re sa-daa mo Juda aanumi lalo: Adalepa. Mo ome aa madaa pedo ora pua re ta simi.
They said: Lord come and see. Because Jesus had cried the Jews said: He was very fond of that dead man and cried for him.
- –daa indicates that the action is “on account of” some preceding action
- Judaa or Juda aanu indicates the Jewish people who were present
- Imperative plural (you all look)
- Happiness/ love are indicated literally by the phrase that the “throat (pedo) has really been made to die on account of someone”
\v 37 Pare aa medalomame lalo: Gore nipumi ini rubu pi aa-na ini maepeaaria. Goa pea-ga akeane nipumi Lasarus akeane omena gima?
However some of them said: Before he caused a blind man’s eyes to be good. Since he did that, why did he just let Lazarus die?
- For “blind” the idiom is “eyes thrown away”
- “Cause to be good again” is marked by the Benefactive verb, indicating someone did it for him
- Since that is the case, indicated by Goa pea at the beginning of the sentence.
- Why did he let him die?, literally why die-different subject disregarded he
\s Yesumi Lasarus wala marekaasa
Jesus causes Lazarus to get up again.
- Again to indicate that he was alive once
- Cause to get up = requires the Benefactive (he didn’t do it on his own
\v 38 Gore Yesuna pu robaa-para wala o sa-daa nipu matmat-para pisa. Go matmat-re ora aana apedaa-para aasa pare adaa aana-me pora gaape garulasimi.
Jesus was very upset so he went to the grave. The grave was a cave but the door was closed off.
- Stomach was bad again (indicating sorrow) and therefore he went to the grave
- Grave actually a cave, literally a “stone house”
- A cave with a stone acting as the door
- Garula is used elsewhere with the meaning of a “promise/seal”
\v 39 Go raburi Yesumi lalo: Go pora gaape garulaarimide aana pane mealepa sa. Mo ome aa-na baani Marta-me lalo: Aa Mudu, nipu rogaabaina yapi maala popea-pulu abiare nipuna ro pugu palia.
Then Jesus told them: Take away that stone that is closing the door. The dead man’s sibling Martha said: Lord, he has been wrapped up for four days, so his corpse will stink now.
- Gararulaarimide: the morphemes gara-rula-a-rimi-de, literally are: fasten-tighten-Benefactive-3rd.pl-complete
- pane mealepa: put in the open.plural imperative, indicating several did it
- Mo: refers to that dead man’s sister (indicates the one we have all ready talked about)
- Yapi: daylight, for “day”
- Because four days have already gone by
- His corpse, not his body, stinks
\v 40 Yesumi nipu-para lalo: Gore abade neme lagiawade. Neme kone rulali-daare Gote-na epe paana puri mada adaina lawade.
Jesus said: I told you before. If you believe then you will see God’s glory.
- You (personal to Martha)
- Believe is literally “thought holding fast you will on account of”
- Glory: God’s good light strength
- Adaina: you should see
\v 41 Goa sa raburi aana kapea mu pasa. Go rabu Yesumi yaa-para adasaawa lalo: Aapa, nina agaa waru page-daa ora pi lalo.
When he said that they took the covering stone away. Then Jesus looked up into the sky and said: Father, because you always hear me, I say thank you.
- They removed the stone covering
- To look up into the sky (ada-saa-wa) v. to look down
- Father: term of address v. term of reference (apa aaraa; Compare ama v. ag for mother;
- Reciprocal terms occur in Kewa; another example is akua “Grandfather and Grandson”, which are reciprocal terms in the kinship system, as are Grandmother and Granddaughter
- Thanks = it is well/ I am well
\v 42 Oro yaalo nina agaa page pare go onaanu madaa apo lalo-daa. Goa lalo-ga nimumiri neme ni go su amaa mea rapaasa-daa kone rulalimilo lalo sa.
You always hear my talk but on account of these people I said that. I am saying this since you sent me for these people here on the earth so that they will believe.
- Oro yalo: always, literally: daily cycle affirm-it wants;
- Apo: another deictic, this time meaning “that which has not been seen”
- la-lo-ga: say-I am-reason
- su amaa: the ground outside, hence the “earth”
- mea rapasa: take and send
\v 43 Nipumi goa loa sana puri paloa gupa yaasa: Lasarus, ne rekoa amaa-nane ipu sa.
He said that and then he shouted: Lazarus, get up and come outside.
- Sana: a particle to used that normally redirects actions and focus in some way. In this case from saying to yelling
- He yelled loudly using the personal name Lazarus
- An immediate imperative: “You get up and you come outside”
\v 44 Gore mo aba ome aa rekoa ipisa rabu nipuna ki aanuri abade rogaae mamina ralapata palae ipisa. Nipuna ini agaa page mamina-me rogaae-rupa pa rogaa palae ipisa. Go rabu Yesumi nimu-para lalo: Nipu pora pamina esepealepa sa.
When that man who had been dead came out his hands and feet were wrapped with cloth. Even his face was covered. Then Jesus said to them. So that he can walk around, untie him.
- ki aanu means his feet-hands, that is his whole torso
- he was completely wrapped up in cloth: mamina rala-pata palae (cloth clinging-lying down together/completely)
- It came out like that, in a very strong manner: puri pata
- Eye-mouth: face
- –rupa “in that manner”
- Road/path: pora; also the word for door
- command: “untie him”, using the plural imperative form of the verb
If a translation consultant is to consistently and accurately check a passage of scripture, several things are essential to ensure quality:
- The translators should love and obey the Word of God
- The translators must be fluent readers and writers of the source text
- They must be fluent speakers of the target text
- They must be able to make exegetical judgments
- They must have an analysis of the grammar (even if intuitive)
- They must have a dictionary (to test for synonyms and semantic fields)
- They must be familiar with the key terms
- They must be able to judge the appropriateness of idioms and metaphors
- They must be able to provide alternative renderings of a sentence
- They must know the whole story and its discourse features—how characters are introduced, highlighted, foreshadowed, etc.
- They must be able to summarize the story or episode as a whole, not resorting to a sentence by sentence or word by word translation
- They must be able to work with a team of colleagues
In short, translation is a task that involves considerable training, insight, wisdom, determination, and a reliance upon the Spirit of God.