Eddie and Sue Arthur

Translation travails

I suppose 6 deg C isn’t that cold – but it certainly feels it without
heating! The days are starting cold and if there is a cloudless sky, it
warms up to 22 or 23 deg, cooling again as soon as the sun goes down
around 6 pm. Coming from England, these are temperatures I’m used to
coping with, but for the translators who have traveled here to the
plateau from the rain forest, it’s a drastic change of climate. This
island has such a variety of climate, flora and fauna, and also quite a
variety of forms of Malagasy language. The last couple of days I’ve been
teaching about key concepts in the Bible, such as priest, Temple, the
Law, gospel, eternal life etc and it’s been very interesting to compare
what terms the various language groups have suggested to translate these
terms. Tomorrow we’ll move on to translating figures of speech, with the
teaching being given in English by a Dutch consultant and translated
into Malagasy which should prove interesting! Quite hard to talk about
how we should translate figures of speech when we are already
translating the lesson and the examples, but not enough French is
understood by most of the participants for us to be able to teach in French.

On Sunday morning we went to a huge open air meeting a few miles out of
town. It was the annual celebration held by the local Lutheran Church
Synod and this year the church was celebrating its115 year in the
Antsirabe area. On the Saturday there had been around 20,000 people, but
I don’t know how many there were on Sunday. We arrived early, and during
the 3 hours or so we were there people continued to arrive. Shortly
after we got back, we received the news that Marietta’s (one of the
participants) mother had died. So we went to present our condolences and
to send her on her way with our prayers and gifts of money, accompanied
by one of the pastors in the group. It took her at least 12 hours by
bush taxi, but she is hoping she may be back for the 3rd week of the

We have been looking at the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10,
looking particularly at which biblical concepts might not be known in
Malagasy culture. In the Official Malagasy translation, the expression
for the oil used to treat the man’s wounds is ‘diloilo’ (originally from
the French ‘de l’huile’). In the Jewish context this would have been
olive oil, used also in lamps, but for the northern language groups
here, the only meaning ‘diloilo’ had was the paraffin they use in lamps!
The Samaritan pouring paraffin onto the man’s wounds is certainly NOT
the meaning we want to convey! This is one of the many examples where
words in the official Malagasy language can have a different meaning in
other languages, which is why we are training people to translate into
more Malagasy languages.

Well, it’s late already so I must get to bed, especially since I’m
getting up earlier than at home.

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