How Do You Eat an Elephant?

Supplied by Antoinette van der Meulen, who recently consulted on the Lambya translation project in Malawi. TWFTW has a huge need for consultants to keep up with the translators’ fast work! If you’re interested in this, please contact us.

The bus-trip from Lilongwe to the far north of Malawi wasn’t for sissies. Once there, internet access was difficult, but otherwise staying in Chitipa and working with the Lambya team was very enjoyable. We got a move on with the Psalms, starting from Psalm 36 where we stopped last year. It’s usually the little words that cause the problems: an incorrect article, conjunction, adjective or prefix can completely change the meaning of a sentence. People are usually nervous about Psalm 119, but it was eventually not too difficult. One finds synonyms for words: law, the law, laws, commandments, instructions, teachings, commands, ways, and ordinances, and then one approaches the task as one would eat an elephant, “one bite (or verse) at a time”. And before we knew it, we had completed the Psalms.

And before we knew it, we had completed the Psalm. It’s pleasant work; I particularly like the Psalms of praise.

Because I was staying in their town this time,
 the Lambya translators could stay at home.
 Pastor John stays outside the town, is 82, and
 rides 15km by bicycle to work each morning,
 and then home each afternoon. A local church
 supplied us with a free office as their contribution to the Bible that they will receive when the translation is complete.

“The unfolding of your words gives light…”

The Yem people, who live in south-western Ethiopia, are another step closer to receiving the complete Word of God in their heart language! Antoinette van der Meulen, one of the Greek and Hebrew experts who work in TWFTW, finished checking the Yemsa New Testament with the Yemsa translation team in mid-May. These consultant checks involve making sure that the translation is accurate regarding the original Greek or Hebrew text, that it is clear in its meaning, and that it is as natural as possible so that the language community will not feel as though they are reading a translation.

In 2007, when the most recent census was taken, there were an estimated 160,500 people who spoke Yemsa as their first language, not including children. How incredible to think that soon, all these people will have access to God’s Word in their mother tongue! As Psalm 119:130 says, “The unfolding of your words gives light…” May the Yemsa people soon be flooded by the light of God’s Word. Please continue to pray with us as we work to finish the process so that the Yemsa people can have access to the Bible as soon as possible.

"It felt as if we were in Israel"

“It felt as if we were in Israel.”
A Bible translator

Consultation in Asia

Once more we worked through Matthew. This time numbering 8 language groups, one completely new to me. It is not a difficult book, but even so, the discussions took longer than usual. At times it feels like nit-picking, but it pays to spend the needful time, since an unnecessary word added, or a question mark omitted can lead to subtle or even gross differences in meaning.

I again thank God for the times I spent in Israel, especially with Jerusalem Center for Bible Translators (Formerly Home for Bible Translators) AD 2007, where we had the privilege of physically visiting so many of the locations mentioned in the Bible. One cannot help but to cherish the wish to have every translator of God's word go through that experience of visiting the Holy Land. However, photos of locations and explanations of cultural and religious practices make a good 'second best', eg.

As one of the translators said: 'It felt as if we have been to Israel.'

It is always tricky to decide beforehand how much time will be needed for the consultation of the prepared books. Because of our extensive discussions, I misjudged pitifully. We had to put in extra hours, working Saturdays and evenings to finish the work. Exegetical work on seven of the eight groups have now been completed. The literal English back translation of the text of one group, however, was not up to scratch, and we are now trying to finalise the translation by email. The process is much slower than what I expected, but the co-operation from the team's side is excellent.

I expect one would only be able to measure the impact of these eight printed Gospels of Matthew in the hereafter. We thank God for them and we equally thank you for your support.

Antoinette Vermeulen
TWFTW Bible Translation Consultant