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’!”
The following is a representation of the story of Jesus calming the sea in Shor with traditional throat singing. The singers are Lubov Arbachakova (with no instrument) and Irena Kiskurova:
A translation of the Russian subtitles into English:
0:11 Once Jesus was at the sea with his disciples.
0:24 A multitude of people gathered, and he began to teach them.
0:36 When evening came, He said to His disciples:
0:45 “Let’s move to the other side.”
0:48 The disciples asked the people to leave,
0:56 they were all in the boat together in Jesus and set out on the other side of the sea.
1:22 Suddenly there was a strong storm.
1:30 The waves beat the boat so that it was filled with water.
1:42 And Jesus at this time slept in the stern of the boat, laying his head on the steersman’s seat.
1:58 The disciples woke him up and said:
2:08 “Teacher! Do you really care that we are dying?”
2:11 Jesus stood up, calmed the wind, and said to the sea:
2:20 «Hush, shut up!»
2:23 The wind died down, and there was a complete calm on the sea.
2:35 And Jesus rebuked the disciples:
2:46 “Why are you so timid? Do you have absolutely no faith?”
2:52 They continued sailing, and the disciples spoke to each other with fear:
3:11 “Who is He, that even the wind and the sea listen to Him?”
Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 4:36:
Uma: “So, since Yesus was already in the boat, off they went, leaving the crowds who were on the lake shore. There were other boats there also that followed them.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
Yakan: “They left the crowds of people. The disciples of Isa got into the boat in which Isa was already seated (lit. (where) Isa’s sitting-place was-already) and they took Isa on the voyage. There were also other boats accompanying them.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Then they left the many people, and the disciples of Jesus got into the boat where Jesus had been sitting, and they left. And there were also some other people who rode in boats with them.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
Kankanaey: “Then they rode in the boat that Jesus was-already-riding-in and they left the many-people. There were also other boats that went-with them.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
Tagbanwa: “Well, that boat in which Jesus was already sitting/sailing, that’s the one they sailed in. There were also other boats which sailed at the same time. As for that crowd of people, they were left there.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
opsias genomenēs (1.32; 6.47; 14.17; 15.42) ‘when evening had come’: presumably at, or after sunset.
dielthōmen eis to peran ‘let us go to the other side.’
dierchomai (10.25) ‘go through’ literally; here ‘go,’ ‘go across.’
eis to peran ‘to the other side’: normally, as here, meaning Perea, the country east of the Lake of Galilee (cf. 5.1), or of the Jordan river (cf. 3.8; 10.1). In the literal sense ‘to the other side’ it is used in 5.21; 6.45; 8.13.
kai aphentes … paralambanousin ‘and leaving … they take’: the subject is ‘the disciples.’
aphiēmi (cf. 1.18; 2.5) ‘leave,’ ‘abandon’; some translate “dismiss”, which is not supported by Marcan usage (apoluō is ‘dismiss,’ ‘send away’: cf. 6.36, 45; 8.3, 9).
paralambanō (5.40; 7.4; 9.2; 10.32; 14.33) ‘take,’ ‘take with’ (or ‘along’): there is no idea of force implied (cf. Lagrange).
hōs ēn en tō ploiō ‘as he was in the boat’: hōs ‘as,’ denoting comparison, means that Jesus still was in the boat in which he had pushed off from shore to teach the crowd (4.1), without having gone ashore. Translator’s New Testament takes hōs as temporal ‘while’: the great majority of translations, however, assume the meaning ‘as.’
alla ploia ēn met’ autou ‘other boats were with him’: so the great majority of translations; Translator’s New Testament, however, has “it” (the boat).
Because of possible confusion in rendering them, in view of the fact that for the most part the crowd has been referred to by such a third person plural pronoun, it may be advisable to translate ‘said to the disciples.’
Go across must be made quite specific in some languages. For example, in Aymara, a language spoken by about one million Indians around Lake Titicaca in the Andes between Bolivia and Peru, one must specify whether ‘going across’ denotes from one side of the lake to another or from one projection of land (into the lake) to another such projection. In this context, one would seem to be dealing with a passage across the main body of the lake to Perea.
To the other side must often be elaborated to mean ‘to the land on the other side of the lake’ (Kekchi).
One must be quite careful in translating took him, for in some languages the connotation is one of ‘forcible arrest’ or ‘manhandling.’ One may, however, say ‘go with him’ or ‘have him go with them.’
Just as he was does not refer to Jesus’ appearance, but his place, already in the boat. This meaning may be indicated by some paratactic constructions, e.g. ‘the disciples had him go with them in the boat; he was already there in the boat.’
For problems involving the size of the boat, see 1.19.
Were with him is equivalent in some languages to ‘went along at the same time.’ Note, however, that verbs used in speaking of boats ‘going’ may be entirely different from those used of motion by birds, animals, or persons.
Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on the Gospel of Mark. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1961. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .