One translation challenge into Mano (Mann) concerned how to express the idea that Sarah no longer had monthly periods. The draft prepared by a female translator used a euphemism that was very vague. As a result, the other translators did not know what was in view. After a long discussion it was decided to say that Sarah was beyond the age of childbearing.
The Greek that is translated into English as “moth(s)” was translated as “cockroach(es)” in Gola “since moths are not seen as destroying things but cockroaches are” (source: Don Slager). The same translation was chosen for Uripiv (source: Ross McKerras).
David tells his son Absalom (in English translations) to “go in peace” after his son asks for permission to go to Hebron to complete a vow to God there. Since that was not understandable to the Dan translators, it was translated as “David gave his permission.”
The Greek that is mostly translated as “virgin” in English can be translated as “woman that is untouched” in Batak Toba or “a woman with a whole (i.e. unopened) body” in Uab Meto. In some cases, however, such terms, or descriptive phrases like, “a woman who has not been with a man,” are felt to be too outspoken. Hence, in English versions the rendering has been toned down from “virgin,” via “maiden” (Goodspeed 1923/1935, Rieu 1954), to “girl” (New English Bible 1961/1970), and in Batak Toba from “woman that is untouched” to “girl” (lit. “female child”).
Similar words for “girl,” “unmarried young woman,” suggesting virginity without explicitly stating it, are found in Marathi, Apache, or Kituba. Cultural features naturally influence connotations of possible renderings, for instance, the child marriage customs in some Tboli areas, where the boy and girl are made to sleep together at the initial marriage, but after that do not live together and may not see each other again for years. Hence, the closest attainable equivalent, “female adolescent,” does not imply that a young girl is not living with her husband, and that she never had a child, but leaves uncertain whether she has ever slept with a male person or not. Accordingly, in Luke one has to depend on Luke 1:34 to make clear that Mary and Joseph had not had sexual intercourse. A different problem is encountered in Pampanga, where birhen (an adaptation of Spanish “virgen” — “virgin”), when standing alone, is a name of the “Virgin Mary.” To exclude this meaning the version uses “marriageable birhen,” thus at the same time indicating that Mary was relatively young. (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
In Navajo, the term that is used is “no husband yet” (Source: Wallis, p. 106) and in Gola the expression “trouser girl.” “In the distant past young women who were virgins wore trousers. Those who were not virgins wore dresses. That doesn’t hold true anymore, but the expression is still there in the language.” (Source: Don Slager)
The term in Djimini Senoufo is katogo jo — “village-dance-woman” (women who have been promised but who are still allowed to go to dances with unmarried women). (Source: Übersetzung heute 3/1995)
David tells Uriah (in English translations) to “go down to his house and wash his feet.” This refers to stay the night, and in particular sleep with his wife (see v. 11). The Chamula Tzotzil translated it as “sweep out your heart,” meaning the same thing as “make yourself at home.”
Dan translators translated it as “to go home and relax.”
The Greek and Hebrew that is translated as “praise (God)” in English is translated in a nuymber of ways:
- Tae’: “make-great” / “make-great the name of”
- Western Highland Purepecha / Morelos Nahuatl: “to speak well of”
- San Blas Kuna / Kpelle: “lift up the name of”
- Huehuetla Tepehua: “to sing the name of”
- Highland Totonac: “to make good”
- Tzeltal: “to say good about”
- Navajo: “to make known something good about” (source for this and above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
- Isthmus Mixe: “placing (God) big”
- Chuj: “say good word about (God)”
- San Mateo del Mar Huave: “honor (Father God)” (source for this and three above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
In Dan a figurative expression for praising God is used: “pushing God’s horse.” “In the distant past people closely followed the horses ridden by chiefs, so ‘pushing’ them.” (Source: Don Slager)
English translations say “Syrians made peace with the Israelites after being defeated by them” — The idiomatic expression used by the Dan translator in this context for making peace is “giving a white chicken.” When people offer a white chicken, they accept defeat. The victorious party is expected to accept the chicken to show that they will not retaliate. It’s important that the chicken be white, not any other color, and that its legs not be tied (showing freedom).
The Hebrew that is often translated as “still waters” in English is translated as “water at the mouth of a well” in Dan since “the imagery of ‘still water’ is seen as something negative, water that is dirty since it isn’t moving.”
The Hebrew is translated in English translations as manna (that) was “as delicate (thin) as frost.” In Dan they said it was as delicate as hail since they don’t have frost here. However, I cautioned them that hail is not very delicate. So I suggested that they say the manna was as delicate as ashes (bɥ̀ɵ̀). That has worked well in other languages here. The whole sentence in Dan reads: “Kǝ lɛ̀ lúɛ́ ɓɛ é go sɛaɛ, pǝ ɓlɵ́ téé ê bìɓòlɛ̀ kâ gbéèɛ̀ é kǝ̀ nɛɛ bɥ̀ɵ̀ lɵ́ɛ è kǝ̀ sɛa má.”
See also snow (color).
In English translations it says that “God stood on a platform of sapphire as blue as the sky.” The translator transliterated sapphire, and said the platform was as black as the sky since the Mano (Mann) word for blue includes the color black also. We decided to say that the platform was the color of the sky, without specifying the color. That way a light blue color will be in view.
The Hebrew and Greek that is often translated as “As the Lord lives, (I swear)” in English is translated in Dan as “I swear before the true living God” to “not to imply that God could die, contrasting with the dead false gods.”