The Greek term that is translated in English as “bread” or “loaf” is translated in Samo, it is translated as “Sago,” which serves “like ‘bread’ for the Hebrews, as a generic for food in the Samo language. It is a near-perfect metonymy that has all the semantic elements necessary for effective communication.” (Source: Daniel Shaw in Scriptura 96/2007, p. 501ff.)
In Chol it is translated as waj, the equivalent of a tortilla. (Click or tap here to see the rest of this insight)
John Beekman (in The Bible Translator 1962, p. 180f. ) explains: “The word ‘bread’ in Scripture primarily occurs as either a specific term for bread (including the Lord’s Supper), or as a generic term for food. It is not surprising, however, the some aboriginal groups use something other than bread as the staff of life. The Chols, with their cultural focus in the cultivation of corn, use waj, a type of thin corn flake. Since a meal is not complete without this main item of food, the term has been extended to include any other foods which may be served along with waj. While bread is known to them, its use is limited to a few occasions during the year when it functions as a dessert. In translating this term in the Chol New Testament, consistent use has been made of the word waj whenever the function of bread as a basic food was in focus. John 6:35, “I am the bread of life,” was thus translated with this word. If the word for bread had been used, it was feared that the Chol would compare Christ to the desirable, but not absolutely necessary, dessert.”
Robert Bascom adds his thoughts to this in relation to other Mayan languages (in Omanson 2001, p. 260): “In many Mayan languages, ‘bread’ can be translated waj or kaxlan waj. The first term literally means anything made from corn meal, while the second term literally means ‘foreigner’s waj,’ and refers to the local wheat-based sweet breads which are so popular within the broader European-influenced culture of the region. On the one hand, waj would be a better dynamic equivalent in cases where ‘bread’ meant ‘food,’ but in cases where the focus is literal or the reference well-known, kaxlan waj would preserve a flour-based meaning (though in biblical times barley was more in use than wheat) and not insert corn into a time and place where it does not belong. On the other hand kaxlan waj is not the staff of life, but refers to a local delicacy. In cases such as these, it is even tempting to suggest borrowing pan, the Spanish word for ‘bread,’ but native speakers might respond that borrowing a foreign word is not necessary since both waj and kaxlan waj are native terms that cover the meaning (though in this case, perhaps not all that well).”
Following are a number of back-translations of John 6:13:
Uma: “They gathered it up, there were twelve baskets left over from the five pieces of bread that the many people had eaten.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
Yakan: “So-then they gathered all the left-overs. From the five units of bread eaten by the people the left-overs they gathered were twelve baskets full.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And then they gathered up twelve baskets full of the pieces of the five loaves of barley.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
Kankanaey: “When they gathered-together then what was left-over of the original five breads, twelve baskets are what were filled (lit. placed-in) with the broken-scraps of food.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
Tagbanwa: “Without anything further, the disciples collected those left-overs of bread. As for what got collected by them, twelve baskets got filled.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
Tenango Otomi: “Now five breads had been parted to feed the people. That which was left over was twelve baskets of leftovers.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
In the Yatzachi Zapotec translation of the Gospel of John, any reference to the evangelist and presumed narrator is done in the first person.
The translator Inez Butler explains (in: Notes on Translation, September 1967, pp. 10ff.):
“In revising the Gospel of John in Yatzachi Zapotec we realized from the start that the third person references of Jesus to himself as Son of Man had to be converted into first person references, but only more recently have we decided that similar change is necessary in John’s references to himself as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved.’ As I worked on those changes and questioned the informant about his understanding of other passages in the Gospel, I discovered that the reader misses the whole focus of the book as an eyewitness account unless every reference to the disciples indicates the writer’s membership in the group. In view of that we went back through the entire book looking for ways to cue in the reader to the fact that John was an eyewitness and a participant in a many of the events, as well as the historian.
“When the disciples were participants in events along with Jesus, it was necessary to make explicit the fact that they accompanied him, although in the source language that is left implicit, since otherwise our rendering would imply that they were not present.”
In this verse, the Yatzachi Zapotec says: “Then we gathered . . .”
So they gathered them all is literally “so they gathered,” with no expressed object. Most modern translations attempt in one way or another to indicate that the object is the pieces left over (of verse 12). It may be useful to render this first clause of verse 13 “So they gathered up all the pieces that had been left over.” It is also possible to translate “so they received back from the people all the pieces that were left over,” if one assumes that the food was gathered up in this manner (see comments on verse 12).
The size of the baskets referred to cannot be precisely determined. Elsewhere in the New Testament this word is used in Matthew 14.20; 16.9; Mark 6.43; 8.19; Luke 9.17. In Matthew 15.37; 16.10 and Mark 8.8,20, a different word for basket is used—the same word used of the basket in which Paul was lowered from the wall (Acts 9.25). These baskets were evidently fairly large. It is possible that the term in John 6.13 had a general meaning and was used for baskets of various sizes and shapes. In many receptor languages there is a term for a special type of basket used for carrying agricultural produce, and this word would be the one to use in this context.
Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on the Gospel of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1980. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .