call / summon (Japanese honorifics)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way to do this is through the usage (or a lack) of an honorific prefix as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

The Greek and Hebrew that is translated as “call” or “summon” in English is translated in the Shinkaiyaku Bible as o-yobi (お呼び), combining “call” (yobi) with the respectful prefix o-.

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )

formal 2nd person pronoun (Spanish)

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Spanish uses a formal vs. informal second-person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Spanish Bibles all use only the informal second-person pronoun (), with the exception of Dios Habla Hoy (third edition: 1996) which also uses the formal pronoun (usted). In the referenced verses, the formal form is used.

Sources and for more information: P. Ellingworth in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 143ff. and R. Ross in The Bible Translator 1993, p. 217ff.

See also the use of the formal vs. the informal pronoun in the Gospels in Tuvan.

Translation commentary on 1 Samuel 3:5

In some languages it will be more natural to reverse the order of the elements when translating Here I am, for you called me. Some may say, for example, “You called me, so I came to you.” But others may prefer “I came here because you called me.”

The third person singular Hebrew verbs in this verse have no explicit subject. To avoid confusion Good News Translation identifies Eli as the one who said “I did not call” and Samuel as the one who went and lay down.

It should be made clear in translation that Eli is instructing Samuel to go back to his own bed and lie down again. Unless special care is taken, some readers might understand that Samuel was to lie down where he was. In English it is quite natural to say “go back to bed” as in Good News Translation and New Century Version.

As a result of Eli’s instructions, Samuel went back to his own bed to go to sleep again. The connecting word So is used to translate the common Hebrew conjunction in order to emphasize the logical relationship between the instructions and Samuel’s action.

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellington, John E. A Handbook on the First and Second Books of Samuel, Volume 1. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .