Article in Christianity Today: How Do You Translate ‘Filled with the Holy Spirit’?

Pentecost reveals a God who understands that language is more than communication.

Just days after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit arrives, and with him, the apostles’ ability to speak in other languages. Diasporic visitors from as far away as today’s Iraq, Libya, and Italy suddenly can hear the gospel in their mother tongues. Hearing about Jesus in this intimate way surprises and amazes the listeners in Jerusalem and viscerally reinforces the personal nature of Jesus’ mission. (The fact that these visitors likely understood Jerusalem’s prevailing languages of Greek or Aramaic further underscores this.)

Yet the church was slow to adopt this message of Pentecost when it came to translating Scripture. Yes, they translated the Bible, but predominantly into Latin, Koine Greek, Ge’ez, Coptic, or Church Slavonic—languages that, over time, became the domain of just a few.

This first changed during the Reformation, and then again with the advent of Bible societies in the 19th century and with translation organizations such as Wycliffe Bible Translators in the 20th century. Today, more than 3,500 languages have at least a portion of the Bible translated into their language (a huge jump from about 2,000 languages just 20 years ago!).

The explosion of modern Bible translations amplifies the ongoing story of Pentecost, a grace that becomes most apparent when we’re able to unearth the riches of these translations and share their treasures beyond their original target audiences.

A couple of those gems can be found in Acts 2:4, the verse that reports on the lifting of that language barrier: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they began to speak in other languages which the Holy Spirit made them able to speak” (NLV).

You can read the rest of the article right here.

Article in Christianity Today: 10 Biblical Terms I Wish Christians Had in English

You’ve probably read the articles about foreign-language words that don’t have an immediate counterpart in English. As a German, I immediately think of schadenfreude, that apparently untranslatable term for, well, schadenfreude—the guilty joy you feel in someone else’s misfortune. Kudos to you virtuous native English speakers for not having your own word for that smug feeling.

Other foreign words are also woven seamlessly into daily life, like the Swedish ombudsman, the Finnish sauna, or the Italian pizza. There are many others, of course, especially in a language like English that derived its uncommonly large dictionary from the treasure chests of many languages.

Then there are the words that haven’t made it into the English dictionary yet, though they’ve achieved notoriety as beautiful but untranslatable terms. (As a translator, I’ll add that “untranslatable” isn’t exactly true. It’s just that we don’t have a word-to-word equivalent.) This includes terms like Danish hygge, which alludes to a sense of cozy comfort in the company of others, or the Finnish sisu, the concept of hidden inner strength in times of adversity. These words enrich how we view the world and offer insights about their cultures of origin. (Again, I apologize for schadenfreude!)

What if we could similarly peel back linguistic barriers to see how other languages and cultures view God through the language they use? For almost five years I’ve been collecting and curating data about how languages around the world translate the Bible in different and often insightful ways. Here are a few examples of words I wish we had in English to understand and communicate with God more deeply.

For the rest of the article, see here.

Article in Christianity Today: Blessed by ‘The Blessing’ in the World’s Indigenous Languages

“The more than 100 popular videos of ‘The Blessing’ sung by churches as benedictions to their cities, countries, and the world have become a multilingual phenomenon. As one YouTube comment mentions, it’s like a foretaste of the great polylingual choir described in Revelation 7.

“Seven years ago in an article for Christianity Today, I looked forward to language’s ‘crowning achievement’ in the ‘amazing sight and sound’ that Christians around the world anticipate in heaven. But now I wonder whether I actually left out an even more crucial component than sight and sound: meaning.

“When you listen on YouTube to the Malay, Burmese, German, or French renditions of ‘The Blessing,’ you may rightly assume that they are substituting the words of Numbers 6:24-26 from a Bible translation in their language for the original English text. But how does the meaning transfer from one language to another?

“We know from experience that Bible translations within one language can differ widely from each other, and it’s clear that this gap becomes more extreme in translations from one language into another. The words of different languages have different histories (etymologies), and the fields of meaning that words have do not cover exactly identical grounds between languages.

“Why is this relevant?”

Find the rest of this article right here.

Reading Plan on YouVersion: Every Language: Listening To The Multilingual God

“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 unique capacities to communicate certain biblical messages in exceptionally enriching ways that other languages cannot. This Bible Plan explores seven of those hidden treasures that will expand how you think about God and his good news.”

Subscribe to the 7-day reading plan on YouVersion right here.

TIPs adds language taxonomy

With an ever-increasing number of languages in TIPs, it might feel disorienting to understand what the languages are and how they relate to each other.

So far it has been possible to find a link to the corresponding Wikipedia page underneath each language listing and — if applicable — a link to an online location of the already-translated part or whole of scripture in that language (see image 1 below).

Now (June 2020) we have added a taxonomy (= classification) that allows you to place each language within its language groups and relate it to other languages.

Below each language there are now two immediate language groups shown, preceded by an ellipsis:

Image 1: Immediate language groups

If you are familiar with the language groups, or if you would just would like to find out more, clicking on the ellipsis reveals the complete language groups hierarchy:

Image 2: Complete language hierarchy

Any of the language groups represents a link that leads to a page where the immediate subgroups or associated languages are listed. If you click on “Zapotec” in this case, you will see all the languages that are part of that group and are covered in TIPs, followed by the number of stories associated with each:

Image 3: All languages belonging to one language group

Each of these language listings is also a hyperlink that leads you to a page for that language (which would look like Image 1).

If you click on a language group that has other language groups listed underneath (as in this example “Zapotecan”), you will see all the language sub-groups containing other groups or languages that have stories associated with them:

Image 4: Language sub-groups

Selecting “Zapotec” brings you back to Image 3, and selecting “Chatino” displays all the languages that are part of that language group with stories in TIPs:

Image 5: All languages belonging to another language group

We would be grateful if you could provide feedback on the usefulness of this feature and let us know what we can improve.

A tool that analyses and compares translations of the Bible

At the FIT (International Federation of Translators and Interpreters) conference I had the chance to present a tool I’ve been working on for some time, and I’d like to introduce it here as well. But let’s start at the beginning.

As translators, we’re fascinated by languages, so it’s not hard to convince ourselves that the survival of indigenous languages is important. I also don’t have to repeat the dire statistics concerning the rapid loss of languages that we are experiencing. We know about this, and we care — even though we sometimes feel helpless in responding to the problem. How, though, do we communicate that urgency to others, or how do we at least awaken some interest in the rest of the world?

For about three years I have been working on a tool which I think has the potential to make that possible. It can change the conversation about why everyone should care about indigenous languages and their plight from ‘because it’s the right thing to do’ to if you don’t, you personally will lose out.’

See the rest of the article from the ITI Bulletin right here.

Review of TIPs by Eddy Arthur

“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.”

Read more from this review right here.

What is the Translation Insights and Perspectives (TIPs) website and how can it help your Bible Society?

“The vision of the Translation Insights and Perspectives website was to build something to help Christians around the world understand the value of Bible translation, and also expand their horizons about the biblical text. It does this by exposing them to the different ways other languages express certain concepts in the Bible. Put simply, it curates insights and perspectives about the Bible, gleaned from hundreds of languages and translation projects.”

Read more from this interview about the Translation Insights & Perspectives tool right here.