Feb 26, 2013

A translation workshop means language learning for me

I compare language learning to eating a bowl of rice, one grain at a time. In the end you will have eaten the entire bowl, but it's a slow process. 


Here in Cameroon, a workshop is going on for translation-consultants for the continued training and honing of their skills in Bible translation. For me though, I am using these two weeks as an opportunity for language learning as the entire workshop is in French. In exchange for allowing me to attend the sessions, I happily agreed to photograph the workshop.

What is a translation consultant?

Glad you asked.

The translation consultant has always been a part of the Bible translation process as the one who puts his/her stamp of approval on the translation prior to typesetting. The work is quite complex: the consultant needs to check that the translation is accurate in its meaning, clear in its presentation and natural in the ‘target language’ that it has been translated into. A consultant needs to be something of an ‘all-arounder’, with knowledge of Biblical languages and culture, linguistics (i.e. how languages work) and the culture of the target language.  He or she can’t know everything about the target language of course, so a consultant needs to know which questions to ask to get the necessary information from the team of nationals that he or she is working with.

Generally speaking, fading are the days when a translator spends 20+ years in a village translating the Bible in a 1:1 relationship: one translator, one language group. In the new paradigm, the expatriate consultant is more of a facilitator and trainer than a translator. Alongside his/her checking role, a consultant will often teach translation and linguistic principles at workshops for national translators. Having nationals do the translating makes sense because they know the language infinitely better than the expat, resulting in a more natural sounding translation. In addition, greater local participation and management of a project results in greater 'ownership' among the people group and the likelihood of the translated Scripture being used by the community dramatically increases. By handing over the bulk of responsibility of translation to the nationals they are then less dependent on the expat consultant, freeing the consultant to work in multiple languages (often related) at one time, called language clusters.

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