Back in 2010, I wrote the following:
Just as each culture brings something new to humanity, so does every language. Each language is capable of expressing some things better than all other languages. Why else do coffee shops sell cafe latte rather than milky coffee? On a deeper note, each language has the ability to express itself in ways that other languages can’t quite manage. There are subtleties of meaning and inference that just can’t quite be transferred from one language to another without losing something. And this is really important, because that means that each language can say things about God and is capable of praising God in ways that other languages can’t quite reach. When God multiplied the languages at Babel, He also gave us the possibility of understanding Him and praising Him in new ways. Babel was a judgement, but at the same time God blessed humanity immeasurably and revealed even more of himself to us.
One of the great blessings of being involved in Bible translation is that you get to wrestle with expressing God’s word in other languages and as you do, you begin to see things clearly that were, up till that point, somewhat opaque. Of course, not everyone can be a Bible translator, but thanks to a new website: Translation Insights and Perspectives those who aren’t involved in translation have access to insights from all sorts of languages. The blurb for the site says:
God’s communication with humanity was intended from the beginning for “every nation, tribe, and language.” While all languages are equally competent in expressing the message of the Bible, each language has particular and sometimes unique capacities to communicate certain biblical messages in exceptionally enriching ways that other languages cannot. The Translation Insights and Perspectives (TIPs) tool collects these outstanding translation insights in the form of stories so they can be made available to everyone in the church as well as researchers and other interested parties.
From the top menu of this page, you can browse and search through stories that contain such insights (“Find Stories”), contribute insights that will be reviewed by a team of curators and then published (“Submit Story”), or access a guide on how to use this site (“Help”).
You can search for insights either by looking up Bible references or by searching for different languages. This initiative with originated with Jost Zetzsche, co author of the excellent “Found in Translation” will be of interest to anyone who is involved in research and teaching the Bible, particularly those who are working cross-culturally.
A slight word of caution may be needed here. Just because a word or phrase can be translated in a particular way in one language, it does not mean that this can be applied directly to English (or any other language, for that matter). However, the different translations can certainly spark of ideas, new insights or sermon illustrations.
Three points in closing:
- Please visit Translation Insights and Perspectives and have a look around.
- If you think that your vicar, pastor or what have you isn’t aware of this site, please point it out to them.
- Please could my colleagues who work in translation submit any good stories or insights that they have. The more that this can be populated the better it will get.