You might know that many Australian Indigenous translations tend to be quite long.
As in, the same passage seems to go on for a lot longer and uses a lot more words compared to English.
There are a number of reasons for this, but one is that there are lots of technical terms in the Bible that don’t have good concise options in the target language.
So you need to provide a paraphrase to get to that meaning. Or, you come up with a new word.
An example is the language Kriol, spoken widely across the Top End. There’s no word for ‘resurrection’ in Kriol, so every time Paul talks about Jesus’s resurrection or our resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, for example, there’s a whole phrase:
“Jisas Krais bin gidap laibala brom dedbala” (Jesus Christ got up alive from the dead)
As you can imagine, 1 Cor 15 is a long chapter in Kriol.
But it communicates the meaning very effectively without the need to make up a new term that people don’t know and have to therefore process every time they see it.
And in fact, if you mentally substitute ‘Jesus got up alive from among the dead’ every time you see the word ‘resurrection’ you’ll have a very strong sense of Jesus physically coming back from death and what promise that has for believers. Sometimes length is good!
Sam Freney is translation consultant with Bible Society Australia. Sam works with heart language translators across Australia with the collective goal to translate the Bible in the most accurate, clear and natural way possible.
Join as we look at all things clarity, accuracy, acceptability, and more in a general series of Bible translation tidbits from around our region.