Translation Challenges

In our May newsletter, which will be sent out this week, we start a discussion about linguistic challenges that translators face.  We only scratched the surface in the letter and wanted to share some more in this space.  We also invite your comments and additions.

  • Challenge:  Paul says in II Corinthians 7:2 to “make room for me in your hearts.”  Translated literally in the Tsikimba language, the phrase “make room in your heart” is a local idiom for “hold and nurture a grudge.”  Solution:  The translators chose words meaning “open your hearts to us,” which means that Paul wanted to maintain good relationships with the Corinthians.
  • Challenge:  Jesus asks in Matthew 7:11, “Who among you would give your child a snake if he asks for fish?”  For the Tsishingini people, who eat both snakes and fish, the verse has the impact of “Who among you would give your child Pepsi when he asks for Coke?”  Solution:  Instead of the generic word “snake,” the translators chose “abijili,” a type of snake that is never eaten.  This enhanced the impact of the verse while retaining the original meaning.

The Tsikimba and Tsishingini languages are related languages and part of the Kambari language cluster, located primarily in Niger State in northern Nigeria.  Click here for more information about the completion of the New Testament in Tsikimba.

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