leaven

The Greek and Hebrew that is translated as “leaven” (or “yeast”) in English is translated in Tzotzil as “the thing that swells the stomach of bread.”

In the occurrences in Mark 8:15 it is translated in Wantoat as “salt.”

(Source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.)

boat, ship

The Greek that is translated “boat” or “ship” in English is translated in Chichimeca-Jonaz as “that with which we can walk on water.” In Kouya it is translated as ‘glʋ ‘kadʋ — “big canoe.”

Philip Saunders (p. 231) explains how the Kouya team arrived at that conclusion:

Acts chapter 27 was a challenge! It describes Paul’s sea voyage to Italy, and finally Rome. There is a storm at sea and a shipwreck on Malta, and the chapter includes much detailed nautical vocabulary. How do you translate this for a landlocked people group, most of whom have never seen the ocean? All they know are small rivers and dugout canoes.

We knew that we could later insert some illustrations during the final paging process which would help the Kouya readers to picture what was happening, but meanwhile we struggled to find or invent meaningful terms. The ‘ship’ was a ‘big canoe’ and the ‘passengers’ were ‘the people in the big canoe’; the ‘crew’ were the ‘workers in the big canoe’; the ‘pilot’ was the ‘driver of the big canoe’; the ‘big canoe stopping place’ was the ‘harbour’, and the ‘big canoe stopping metal’ was the ‘anchor’!”

See also harbor, anchor, and sailor.

gnashing of teeth

Th Greek that is translated as “gnashing of teeth” or similar in English is translated as “gnashing their teeth in pain” in Estado de México Otomi for clarity purposes (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.).

See also gnash / grind teeth.

yoke

The Greek and Hebrew term that is translated into English as “yoke,” the Afar translation uses koyta (poles of camel pack) which refers to two poles in front of the hump and two behind; elsewhere in agricultural Ethiopia the yoke is only in front of the hump.

In Chol it is translated with tajbal, a term for “headband” (for carrying) (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.). Likewise, in Kele, it is translated with njɛmbɛ, “a carrying strap worn around the head and across the chest or shoulders to support a burden of firewood, garden produce or even a child carried by this on the back or hip” (source: William Ford in The Bible Translator 1957, p. 203ff.).

In Kwasio it is translated with a term that refers to a “bulky piece of wood attached to the neck of a goat, preventing it from roaming freely in the brushy undergrowth.”

Joshua Ham explains: “When checking this verse in Kwasio, I was surprised to find that the Kwasio had a word for yoke. You see, none of the language groups we have worked with have a tradition of using animals to pull carts or plows. Since yokes don’t exist in the culture, there’s no need for a word for that concept in these languages.

“When I asked the Kwasio team about their word for yoke, they said that they don’t use yokes to help animals pull plows; rather, their word for yoke refers to a bulky piece of wood attached to the neck of a goat, preventing it from roaming freely in the brushy undergrowth. So while the exact use of a Kwasio yoke is not the same as a biblical yoke, there are a lot of similarities: in both cases, it’s a piece of wood around an animal’s neck that serves to keep the animal under control. While the overlap isn’t perfect, it’s pretty good — and almost certainly better than trying to squeeze in a distracting explanation of how yokes function in the biblical cultures.”

right hand of

The Greek and Hebrew that is typically translated as “(to the) right hand of” is often translated much more descriptively in other languages. In Yakan it is translated as “at the right side, here in the greatest/most important/most honored place/seat,” in Mezquital Otomi as “the right hand, at the place of honor,” in Chuj as “exalted at the right hand,” in Chichimeca-Jonaz as “in a high place there at the right,” in Lalana Chinantec as “make great,” in Isthmus Mixe as “given great authority,” in Morelos Nahuatl as “placed big” (source: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August, 1966, p. 1ff), and in Teutila Cuicatec as “in all authority at the right side” (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.).

leprosy

The Greek and Hebrew terms that are often translated as “leprosy” in English is translated in Mairasi as “the bad sickness,” since “leprosy is very common in the Mairasi area” (source: Enggavoter 2004).

In Tzotzil the translation is “rotting sickness” (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.).

See also leprosy healed.

insulted him and shook their heads

The Greek that is translated as “(they) insulted him and shook their heads” in English is translated in Dobel with the culturally equivalent “(they) continuously bit their lips at him and abused him.”

In Nüpode Huitoto “shake their heads” is translated with the cultural equivalent “stick out their chins” (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.) in Chol with “spitting on the ground,” and in Copainalá Zoque with “clapping the hands” (source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation, March 1965), p. 2ff.).

See also shake the head.

rudder

The Greek that is translated as “(small) rudder” in English is translated in Yatzachi Zapotec as “(a small) stick,” in Mezquital Otomi as “a (little) metal,” in Rincón Zapotec as “(little) wooden hand” (source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation July, 1967, p. 5ff.), and in Tetelcingo Nahuatl as “board to steer” (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.).

See also ship and anchor.

myrrh

The Greek and Hebrew that is translated as “myrrh” in English is translated as “bitter medicine” in Michoacán Nahuatl and as “myrrh perfume” in Tzotzil (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.).

See also mixture of myrrh with aloes.

anchor

The Greek that is translated into English as “anchor” in English is, due to non-existing nautical language, rendered as kayo’ barko (“an instrument that keeps the boat from drifting”) in Chol (source: Steven 1979, p. 76), “iron hooks” (“that make the boat stop”) in Isthmus Mixe, “irons called ‘anchors’ with ropes” in Teutila Cuicatec (source for this and above: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.), “an iron attached to a rope attached to the boat so that it may not drift away” in Lalana Chinantec (source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation, March 1965, p. 2ff.), and “big canoe stopping metal” in Kouya.

Eddie Arthur tells the story of the translation into Kouya: “A slightly more prosaic example comes from Paul’s sea voyages in the Book of Acts. In Acts 27, when Paul’s ship was facing a huge storm, there are several references to throwing out the anchor to save the ship. Now the Kouya live in a tropical rain-forest and have no vessels larger than dug-out canoes used for fishing on rivers. The idea of an anchor was entirely foreign to them. However, it was relatively easy to devise a descriptive term along the lines of ‘boat stopping metal’ that captured the essential nature of the concept. This was fine when we were translating the word anchor in its literal sense. However, in Hebrews 6:19 we read that hope is an anchor for our souls. It would clearly make no sense to use ‘boat stopping metal’ at this point as the concept would simply not have any meaning. So in this verse we said that faith was like the foundation which keeps a house secure. One group working in the Sahel region of West Africa spoke of faith being like a tent peg which keeps a tent firm against the wind. I hope you can see the way in which these two translations capture the essence of the image in the Hebrews verse while being more appropriate to the culture.

See also ship / boat, rudder, and anchor (figurative).