A Day in the Life of a Translator

Around August 2016, I walked into our Translation Manager’s office, and the first words I heard Dr. Aloo Mojola, the Translation Consultant say were, “next, what’s the word for common sense?”
I almost forgot what had taken me to that office as I immediately started to think of the equivalent of common sense in my language, Lunyole. As it turns out, I don’t know what common sense is in my language.
Many thoughts raced through my mind and the most prominent was that I don’t know my language very well. What a shame!
I walked to our Translation Manager and communicated what I needed to, but also kept listening to what the Lusamia translators had to say about common sense in their language.
Their first option was immediately dismissed. So they went back to square one!
I walked out of the office, with a note in my mind. Bible translation must be one of the hardest jobs on earth. I guess I will have to wait for the complete Lusamia Bible to be launched, for me to find out what common sense is in Lusamia.
The Lusamia Lugwe Translators were at Bible House for one week to do checking as we near the completion of their project. Soon, we shall have a complete Lusamia Lugwe Bible.
While walking through the corridor, I got an idea. So I decided to speak to these translators about a typical day in a Translator’s life.
So on a bright sunny morning in October 2016, at Rock Hotel in Tororo, I sat down with 3 Lusamia Translators as we hungrily gobbled our breakfast.
On a typical working day, Rev George Okambo wakes up, follows the usual routine most of us follow; clean up, have breakfast and go to office.
According to him, translation entails two major things; research and translation.
So on a research day, the translators will get a word or phrase which they are conflicted about and they’ll share it with people in the community. This is either done with or without an appointment.
For many of you out there, “God” is a very easy word to translate into your mother tongue. But for some languages, there’s several conflicting words for God. So translators sometimes struggle to get the most appropriate. And this is one of the words Rev Okambo used as an example of what they had to research on. The other word that may seem simple but not, is ceremony, plus many others that he shared.
During research, it’s hard for a translator to time themselves. Sometimes, a word being researched becomes complex especially if it’s being discussed amongst a group.
The best people to consult are usually elderly people though the youth are also consulted since research cuts across the demographics. These people don’t even have to be Christians. They just need to have good command of the language.
On a Translation day, the translators will start the day with a word of prayer and then get to work. The amount of work done usually depends on the book being translated. Each book differs in degree of difficulty.
The Lusamia team also took me through the main stages of Translation;
Drafting-This is usually the first interpretation of a particular text.
Teamwork-This entails sharing of scriptures and discussions that help to harmonize and pick the best word. After this, the particular portion will then be forwarded to the reviewers.
Reviewing- Reviewers are people picked from the local community regardless of religion or age. There’s usually about twenty of these. After a portion has been given to the reviewers, they have to be given time to review what has been done by the translators. They will then gather to discuss any necessary changes. The translators then enter reviewers’ remarks into the text.
Checking. Checking is usually done by the Translation Consultant after review. The Consultant’s job is to check if the translation has followed the principles of translation and these are: accuracy, clarity and naturalness.
Usually the consultant doesn’t need to know the language. They usually use back translation. Here a text is read in Hebrew, another translates into English and then a local language and the harmonization is done. For translators who know the language, spot on checking is used. The translators then enter the Translation Consultant’s remarks into the text.
Proof reading- This is done on hard copy to check for any omissions or grammatical errors. After this stage, the Translation Consultant will then give a green light for the printing.
When asked for the hardest word that they have encountered during their Lusamia Translation Project, the translators listed the words below;
• The word for devil
• A bear
• Barley
• District
• Names of colours
• Names of precious stones.
Usually when there’s no similar word, a transliteration is used. This is the use of a local pronunciation of an English word. This explains why words like “disitulikiti” appear in certain languages.
On average, a Translation project will take about 13 years. In the 13 years, the translators will go through lots of experiences. They meet people they have never met and sometimes make lifelong friends.
Oh! By the way, I still don’t know the word for common sense in Lunyole. The Lunyole New testament is now out. Am off, in quest for common sense in Lunyole.

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