boat, ship

The Hebrew, Latin and Greek that is translated “boat” or “ship” in English is translated in Chichimeca-Jonaz as “that with which we can walk on water” (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.), in Chitonga as a term in combination with bwato or “dugout canoe” (source: Wendland 1987, p. 72), and in Tangale as inj am or “canoe-of water” (inj — “canoe” — on its own typically refers to a traditional type of carved-out log for sleeping) (source: Andy Warren-Rothlin).

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 ships of Tarshish, harbor, anchor, and sailor.

complete verse (Genesis 49:13)

Following are a number of back-translations as well as a sample translation for translators of Genesis 49:13:

  • Newari: “‘Zebulun will go to live on the shore of the sea, it will be a suitable place to land ships, his domain will spread to Sidon.” (Source: Newari Back Translation)
  • Hiligaynon: “‘You (sing.) Zebulun, you (sing.) will-live by the seashore. Your (sing.) place will-become a port/harbor of the thing-one-rides-on/(boats). Your land will-extend toward Sidon.” (Source: Hiligaynon Back Translation)
  • English: “Zebulun, your descendants will live by the seashore where there will be a safe harbor for ships. Their land will extend north as far as Sidon city.” (Source: Translation for Translators)

Translation commentary on Genesis 49:13

Zebulun is Leah’s sixth son (30.20).

Zebulun shall dwell at the shore of the sea: verse 13 does little more than locate Zebulun along the sea coast. It is not certain if this is praise or blame. In languages unacquainted with the sea, it may be necessary to say, for example, “You, Zebulun, will live beside the great water” or “… beside the large lake.”

Become a haven for ships: become is supplied by Revised Standard Version. The word translated shore in the first line is repeated in this line and rendered haven. This apparently means a shore to which ships come. According to Josh 19.10-16, the territory of Zebulun was entirely inland. Some interpreters suggest that, when the present saying was written, Zebulun had probably obtained an outlet to the sea and perhaps a stretch of territory to the north toward Phoenicia, which is represented as Sidon in the next line.

If translators follow Revised Standard Version or Good News Translation, haven may need to be rendered “a safe harbor” or “a safe landing.” A common translation of ships in areas where only small boats or dugouts are known is “big boats.”

And his border shall be at Sidon: this appears to mean that the northern border of Zebulun will be at the town of Sidon, which was in southern Phoenicia. It is today in southern Lebanon. See the map on page 18.

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 .