#5 Work on “back translation”
My co-worker Rachel is the translator on our team. She is amazing. She works tirelessly all week long to make sure the Word of God speaks Nahuatl. She checks that every detail is accurate, every phrase is natural, and every underlying message is clearly communicated. For more on this intense, laborious, and amazing process, read here.
I get to help out a tiny bit with this ministry. I read the Nahuatl Scriptures and do a fairly literal “back-translation” into English. This enables our wise consultant to be able to read it, think about it, check it, and decide on comprehension questions for it when he is on site to do the final check with native speakers.
I like this job. It gets me familiar with the Scriptures in Nahuatl, gives me another chance to talk to people about them as I ask questions, and suits my word-nerdy side as I try to match my third language to my first.
I don’t know if you’ve ever learned another language, but if you have you’re very familiar with the idea that languages have different ways of communicating the same idea. “How old are you?” arranged in Spanish with those same words for “how,” “old,” the being verb and the pronoun for “you” comes out sounding like, “just how old are you, anyway?” But copying the way that question is asked normally in Spanish, and using the same form in English gives you, “How many years do you have?” Huh?
It goes without saying that the Nahuatl translation needs to say the same thing that God said. But the way of saying it is going to be different. Good morning here is “How did you dawn?” And visiting a new place is usually “going-along-getting-to-know-in-general.” And yes, that would be one word for us. People don’t “get along” they carry-themselves-along well.
God speaks Nahuatl. His Word was meant to be communicated to the Nahuatl. And I love to hear the natural, very Nahuatl-way in which the Bible is being communicated to the people here who he loves.