Part Two – Translation Consultant

There have been many times that people have asked me, “So what kind of work do you do?” to which I reply, “I do Bible translation consultant checking work.”  And often the response I get to that is, “Oh!” as they look at me with very little comprehension.  And then they change the topic.  I don’t blame them for this reaction.  Even I have difficulty at times to adequately explain what I do so that people who know me can understand what exactly it is that I do.  So let me try to explain here.

In my last article about being a Translation Advisor (read here), I touched on the issue of how important it is to check a translation carefully verse-by-verse.  Let me repeat again that the mark of a good translation is one that flows naturally (the way native speakers use the language), it is accurate to the original biblical text, and it is clear or understandable to the average person.  In other words, it communicates well the Word of God to people in their own mother tongue.

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The work of a Translation Advisor is very difficult and it can go so slowly some times, but the same can also be said about the work of a Translation Consultant.  Go back and read the article “God’s Work Goes Forward” to see just how much knowledge and skill is needed to do Bible translation work.  And not only is the work slow and difficult, but many other factors of life can have an impact on the progress of the work.

The checking sessions I did last Fall, in September/October 2010, is a good example.  My assignment was to go over to Papua New Guinea and help check the translation of Matthew in the W. language.  I was fairly familiar with the book of Matthew, and so I thought that it would not be too difficult to get this book checked.  Little did I know what lay ahead.

The first thing that was a bit new for me was to start using the program called Paratext that I refer to in the article just mentioned.  Up until this time, in my preparation I would read some commentaries and translation helps to determine the meaning of a text, then look over the English back-translation, and then write out some questions on a pad of paper or typed into a Word document.

But now with the Paratext program which you can see above (from an Epistle project I did), I was able to do much of my studies electronically (looking over helpful resources) and write notes to myself in both the Greek text, the English Bible text, and in the back-translation text.  Do you see all those red flags?  Those are my notes that I can insert into the text and when my cursor hovers over the flag, I can see the question.  Pretty cool, eh?

It took me the month of August to get chapters 1-20 of Matthew ready.  A big reason why it went so slowly for me was that I was putting so many notes of clarification or comments from commentaries into the Greek text.  But now that they are there in my Greek text, I will be able to use these same notes to help me for future checking sessions with other projects.

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Then right near the end of August, we heard the beginnings of some very bad news.  The Director of our PNG Branch had suddenly taken ill and was sent immediately along with her husband to Australia to find out what was wrong with her.  At first she has just been feeling a little off, but when her skin started to turn yellow, we all knew that it was something much more serious.  It turned out that she had a rare form of bile duct cancer and she was given only days to live.

So then, with only two weeks to go before we were to fly to PNG, we began to wonder if this trip would need to be called off.  We emailed back and forth with the missionary with whom we would be working to get his thoughts.  It was considered a likely possibility that he would have to go over to Australia himself to help the husband if our Director were to die right away.

But we were told to head on over anyways, and we would start the checking and see what would happen.  And even though we knew the situation was critical, it still came as a shock that she died on the very day that I started my trip to PNG.  So it was with a heavy heart that I went over to start the work of checking Matthew.

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Once I arrived, we still kept our plans of holding the checking sessions.  But then there was a logistical problem with the small mission planes, so that meant our sessions were delayed from starting for two days.  But we got into the text and worked our way forward verse-by-verse, and chapter-by-chapter.  And things seemed to be going okay….until news from the men’s village came to us of a major outbreak of diarrhea and dehydration.

We were told that many people in villages where they spoke the W. language were being brought out to a regional hospital.  Even the Provincial Health Minister went in to see what was happening.  They were able to stop an epidemic (probably caused by stagnant water), but there were still a handful of deaths from this.

It was obvious that the key national translator (whose wife and child were affected by this illness) needed to go back to the village.  And the other men who were helping us in the checking sessions were pastors and they longed to go back to help minister to the people.  So our session was stopped the week prior to our target date.  We were only able to check 20 chapters of Matthew instead of the whole book.

Still, we praised God for what we were able to accomplish.  So the rest of the work, and the rest of the story, would have to wait till later.  Stay tuned next week for the continuation of “God’s Assignment For Me.”

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