Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Day at the Table--Part 1

There is no such thing as a normal day of translation! But, here’s an example (including all real events), of what a day might look like! Check back for Part 2 next week!
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Franky settles into his "office" (photo by Amy Evers)
Nanterane! Good morning! It’s 8:30 am, and I step into the canteen, a little brown building that triples as trade store, coffee roaster, and translation office. James and Tuas, two of my Kamano-Kafe colleagues are already there, but I hear “Heeeey, we come!” and the rest of the team, Nathan, Kosseck, Korry and Franky spill in after me, everyone shaking hands and slapping backs.  Pastors, elders, fathers, youth leaders—they represent five different denominations coming together.  James begins hooking up computers, and Tuas distributes Bibles. Franky, a mother-tongue consultant, settles into the side room to work on adding his comments to an already team-checked translation.


We slide into our folding chairs.  “Any news or prayer requests?” Tuas just dropped his oldest child off at university in another city. Franky’s wife has been in and out of the hospital for potential breast cancer. Two men died in Kosseck’s village. Nathan has been attending some major denominational meetings. They ask me about world news. “Let’s pray.”

James opens up Paratext (photo by Amy Evers)
On to translation! James, our typest and “driver,” clicks open Paratext, the language software that holds all the translated material, and the passage where we left off last week appears on the external screen for all to see. This year we’ve been working our way through Leviticus and now we’re in Deuteronomy. “We used to do this all on paper!” he grins. “This screen makes it so much easier!

By the time the passage reaches the team check, it has already gone through two drafts. Now Kosseck reads aloud in Kamano-Kafe while Tuas immediately translates into Tok Pisin, the trade language of Papua New Guinea, so that I can understand. I follow along in my Bible—four parallel versions, while glancing at various commentaries on my computer, as well as the Hebrew text and 7 other Bible versions on the main screen.  A good translation is clear (communicates everything without any confusion), accurate (contains all the meaning of the original), and natural (sounds like a native speaker). My job is to listen closely and ask questions to confirm we’re sticking to these principles.

Deep in discussion! (photo by Amy Evers)
Hagi 4ti'a kafufi ka'ma kokampina tamavere'na e'noanagi, kukena tamimo'ene anomo'enena tamagia tagatora huno zonipase oramine. ("For forty years I have led you in the wilderness, clothes of yours haven’t worn out, sandals of yours haven’t worn out on your foot.”)

“Who is speaking?” I ask. “Moses!” the guys chorus back. I glance through my notes and re-read the passage. “Actually, the context indicates this is actually God talking.” We discuss it some more, then add in an extra phrase: Ra Anumzamo'a huno. The Big Lord said.

We continue through the rest of the passage, word by word, verse by verse. Sometimes everything flows smoothly, and sometimes we spend upwards of 15 minutes on one verse, poking at it over and over, restructuring, arguing, linking it to previous verses and trying to bridge three different dialects. We discuss spelling issues, I explain difficult English words, and we reword English passives (e.g. "the law was passed") to a more natural active construction in Kamano-Kafe ("the Israelites passed the law").

“Wait, let’s check,” says Kosseck in Tok Pisin, “What does worn out mean? Does it mean just torn or completely torn off and falling off the body? Does it mean you force and tear it or does it happen naturally?” We change a few more words around and re-read the verse a few more times in Kamano-Kafe. Okay, one more time to rekreo (translate it into Tok Pisin again so I’m able to confirm the changes).

We open and close every session with prayer.
Suddenly it’s 10 am, and the Ukarumpa linguistic centre horn blares. We pray to close the session, then stretch, shift in our hard metal chairs. It’s tea break! The men head off to the Highlands office to drink coffee and chat with another language team who are recording word lists. I take advantage of our 15 minutes to run to the other side of centre and tackle various errands for the team, including the post office, finance office, and our computer repair services for Franky’s computer.


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We’ve only reached 10am (and I didn’t tell you about everything that happened before I made it to the office, including an 80 year old man with only four teeth who needed to see the dentist showing up spontaneously at my house! Check back next week for the rest of the day!