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Bible Translation

Nigeria: The first 4 months (work perspective)

Here’s a video introduction to what I’ve been doing:

[youtube_sc url=12hYSb-OrGM]

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(opens a new window, so you can keep the transcript in view in case that’s helpful)

Full Transcript

Work’s started in earnest for me as a translation consultant in training. We had a month to get ourselves established and then I started learning some of the regional language Hausa, before helping train mother tongue translators at a translation software workshop. That lasted two weeks, overlapping with Hausa and then I was straight into a New Testament checking workshop for 3 weeks. 21 translation projects from across Nigeria sent 2 or 3 translators. About a dozen consultants flew in from abroad and joined those of us who live in Nigeria.  Many senior consultants had worked for decades in Africa and elsewhere and mentored and oversaw the work of the trainee consultants like me.

The 21 projects mostly started in the last 3 years and are ambitiously pushing on to complete their New Testaments within the next 2-3 years… a radical shift from past ways of working. Mother tongue translators work more independently of expatriate advisors than ever before. Instead of spending years learning and analysing the language, translators have brief introductory courses and learn on the job, which is where outside consultants are really vital. So we came together for daily teaching sessions: helping us understand James, figuring out how to express rhetorical questions and figures of speech accurately, clearly and powerfully, and learning how to plan projects amongst other things.

The workshop was held at NBTT (the Nigeria Bible Translation Trust), a half hour walk from our house, and was the largest such workshop they’ve ever hosted. New, faster ways of work exacerbate Nigeria’s lack of translation consultants, which is why they need to bring in people from outside. But they’re trying to train up as many new consultants as possible. Hopefully some translators who complete their Bibles will help other language groups as consultants.

But apart from the all-together teaching sessions, most of the work at this workshop happened in small groups, with a consultant or trainee sitting with the translators looking at and listening to the draft of James. Since we consultants don’t know much of the translators’ languages, we rely on a ‘back translation’ to English. We were generally looking for things which have been missed out, misunderstood or mistakenly added in, as well as helping the translators think through how to convey James’ powerful message to the young church scattered across the world. His strong warnings against pride, favouritism, fighting, reliance on worldly riches all struck home as we worked our way through the letter.

I was working with the Maya team from north-easst Nigeria, about 8 hours’ travel away: Zenan Joel & Simon Medan.

My name is Zenan Joel. I am a Cartographer by profession but since God called me to be a translator, I joined this translation work in 2008 and am the project coordinator of this project. As we started in 2008 we have been able to translate about 9 books, of which about 3 are consultant-checked.

The workshop ended up with various speeches and a good meal, and translators and consultants dispersed back to their expectant families. We enjoyed getting to know some of them. I’ll probably be working from time to time with a number of different translation teams.

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