“Brothers” has to be translated into Naro as “younger brothers and older brothers” (Tsáá qõea xu hẽé / naka tsáá kíí). All brothers are included this way, also because of the kind of plural that has been used. (Source: Gerrit van Steenbergen)

This also must be more clearly defined in Yucateco as older or younger (suku’un or Iits’in), but here there are both older and younger brothers. Yucateco does have a more general word for close relative, family member. (Source: Robert Bascom)

brother (older brother)

The Greek and Hebrew that is translated as “brother” in English is translated in Kwere as sekulu and in Mandarin Chinese as gēgē (哥哥), both “older brother.”

Note that Kwere also uses lumbu — “older sibling” in some cases. (Source for Kwere: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)

See also older brother (Japanese honorifics).

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.

complete verse (Genesis 37:16)

Following are a number of back-translations as well as a sample translation for translators of Genesis 37:16:

  • Kankanaey: “‘I-am-looking-for my siblings who are pasturing their sheep and goats. Do you (sing.) know their location?’ Jose said answering.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Newari: “He said — ‘I am looking for my elder brothers. Do you know where they are grazing [their] sheep?'” (Source: Newari Back Translation)
  • Hiligaynon: “He replied, ‘I am-looking-for my siblings. Do- you (sing.) -know where they are-causing-grazing?'” (Source: Hiligaynon Back Translation)
  • English: “Joseph replied, ‘I am looking for my older brothers. Can you tell me where they are taking care of their sheep and goats?'” (Source: Translation for Translators)

Translation commentary on Genesis 37:16

Tell me, I pray you is literally “Please tell me.” This request should be translated in a polite form suitable for a young man addressing an older man who is a stranger.

Where they are pasturing the flock: note that Good News Translation restructures the verse to make Joseph give this information about his brothers in his answer to the man, rather than in his request for information about their whereabouts. This may be more natural for translators in some other languages; an example of what some have done is “I am looking for my brothers. They are minding my father’s sheep and goats somewhere here. Do you know where they are?”

Quoted with permission from Reyburn, William D. and Fry, Euan McG. A Handbook on Genesis. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1997. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

imperatives (kudasai / 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 Japanese show different degree of politeness is through the choice of an imperative construction as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

In these verses, the honorific form kudasai (ください) reflects that the action is called for as a favor for the sake of the beneficiary. This polite kudasai imperative form is often translated as “please” in English. While English employs pure imperatives in most imperative constructions (“Do this!”), Japanese chooses the polite kudasai (“Do this, please.”).

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