A Tale of 10 Languages

What a challenge, but also a remarkable privilege for me, to travel to countless locations in Southeast Asia — this land of variety and contrasts — over the past 10 years of my Bible translation consulting life.

The pace of life is crazy, the hustle and bustle and noise on the streets unbelievable! The colourful sights and unusual sounds are quite spectacular, and the variety of foods and architecture amazing — not to mention the 17 different alphabets used in the over 450 different languages spoken in daily life! Come with me on one of my trips there and see what a group consultation in Southeast Asia is like.

We arrive at a rural hospital where I am told that this is where we will be meeting and where I will stay. I am also told not to leave the campus, as the area is not safe for foreigners. After a spicy meal, disturbed sleep, and a morning shower shared with spiders and a slug or two, I head for the meeting room, filled with tables and laptop computers. People from 10 different language groups are clustered around these tables, all talking excitedly and waiting for the consultation to start.

The 10 teams will all get a turn to showcase their work as each team takes a chapter and reads it out verse by verse, and I assess its accuracy to the original Greek text. The verse is back-translated orally from one of the 10 mother tongue languages into English, so I hear exactly how the translation team have re-expressed the meaning of the verse. I ensure that there are no changes, omissions, or additions to the original or source text meaning.

If there are any problems, I discuss these with the team and they make corrections. I ask questions if I am not sure of their translation, and they too ask me questions if they need help. In this group method of consultation the teams learn from each other and the consultants in training (CITs) also give input, and after we are sure that all the required changes are made, we move onto the next verse.

Working as a consultation team, with CITs who have different strengths and weaknesses, we all learn together and add more expertise as a group to the consultant checking. We now have 5 nationals working as fully trained consultants in Southeast Asia, whom I have had the privilege to mentor.

The beauty of this method of group consultation is that all teams are served together. The stronger teams help the weaker teams to improve their translation. Because the languages are related geographically and linguistically, they can assist each other to provide more examples of local idioms and richer vocabulary to make their translations more natural and meaningful. And that is ultimately what we strive for: clear, natural, and accurate translation of the whole Bible into every person’s heart language.

By Dr. Barry Funnell, a full-time consultant with The Word for the World.

Soli Deo Gloria!

A couple of weeks ago our minister gave a sermon on Jesus telling his disciples that one can tell a mountain to go and jump in the sea and it will be done. That reminded me of a message from the International President of The Word for the World on the same subject, saying that he knew how it could be done: by taking a shovel and a wheel-barrow, going to the mountain, and saying: “Thou shalt be removed!”, and then start working on it.
 
Looking back on my history with TWFTW, I can still see us going to Malawi (the Funnell family), Ethiopia (the van As family) and Zaire (yours truly), with our imaginative spades and wheel barrows and much faith in a good God, doing just that. In hindsight I can only testify about the abundant blessings of God on the work accomplished in His Name, and the fact that he gave us excellent leaders to direct and drive this wild cart and keep it (and us) on track! And we did have some serious road works on the way.
 
I always say I work for God with TWFTW, because at the end of the day one’s walk depends on obedience to God. Herewith I add that there is no other organisation that I would rather work with. Our vision in TWFTW is to have 500 complete Bibles by 2050 – hopefully by then I will be sitting next to Jesus, cheering everyone on. At the moment we are working on 109 projects in many different countries, mainly in Africa. We also have 10 full time consultants and 19 in training; 364 students, and 325 full time translators. We also run literacy courses where people cannot read – because the Bible is not like a lucky charm to be displayed or dusted when the pastor visits. And all this because of God’s grace and to His glory.

Nel Claassen, a TWFTW translation consultant

The Life & Times of Translation Consultants

The Word for the World is currently working on 111 full scale Bible translation projects, each one representing a language. For 111 projects, there are only 10 full-time translation consultants! They have their plates full checking the translations against Greek and Hebrew, usually in person, but sometimes over Skype or email.

Barry Funnell, one of TWFTW’s international consultants, travels approximately 10 times per year to Asia and Africa doing consultant work, which totals about one third of the year in time away from home. He also has been doing Skype consultation in between with the Roma team from Slovakia, as you can see in the video.

Mary* is another consultant with TWFTW and has just returned from a trip to Asia, where she worked with six language teams to check their Gospel of John. The Paratext computer programme enables Mary to check six languages simultaneously because she can look at an English word-for-word translation generated by a computer of all six languages even though they are written in a script she can't read or understand. Please pray for Mary as she goes to Malawi soon to check Psalms and other Old Testament books in the Lambya project!

Please also pray for Nel Claassen, who will be in Ethiopia in May consulting on the Pentateuch, and who will also be doing an email consultation on a project in Southeast Asia. We thank God for technology that makes what we do more accessible and efficient!

If you would like to know more about becoming a consultant, visit our Volunteer page at twftw.org/volunteer.

Veronique Krüger

*Pseudonym