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 4:37:
Uma: “Before long, a big wind arrived. Waves began to hit their boat, with the result that their boat was about full of water.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
Yakan: “Suddenly a strong wind was blowing and the waves broke into the boat, therefore the boat was almost full of water already.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And when they were already in the middle, a strong wind suddenly began to blow, and the waves were splashing and filling the boat.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
Kankanaey: “That being so, a swift wind suddenly-arrived and the waves repeatedly-splashed-into the boat and they were close to sinking.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
Tagbanwa: “Suddenly/unexpectedly a strong wind began to blow. Their boat was almost filled from the breaking waves which that wind was driving.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
lailaps megalē anemou ‘a great storm of wind,’ ‘a fierce gust of wind.’
lailaps (only here in Mark) ‘whirlwind,’ ‘hurricane,’ ‘squall.’
anemos (4.39, 41; 6.48, 51; 13.27) ‘wind.’
ta kumata epeballen ‘the waves were spilling on (into the boat).’
kuma (only here in Mark) ‘wave.’
epiballō (11.7; 14.46, 72) ‘throw upon’: without an object, in the active voice, as here, the verb means ‘to throw oneself’ or ‘to beat upon.’
hōste ēdē gemizesthai (see 1.27 for this construction) ‘so that it was already getting full (of water).’
gemizomai (15.36) ‘be filled,’ ‘become full.’
In some languages one cannot say ‘a great storm of wind arose.’ The only equivalent maybe ‘suddenly the wind blew very fiercely’ or ‘the wind ran with strength.’
The waves may be spoken of as ‘falling into the boat,’ rather than beating into the boat.
Rather than the boat … was filling one may need to say in some languages ‘water was filling the boat’ or ‘the boat was already getting full of water.’
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 .