Obla: Margie Lumawan, Bible Translator (Part 3)

Here’s the third and last part of our interview with Margie Lumawan (who goes home to Nansiakan in the above picture) about her work as a Bible translator. In case you haven’t read the earlier parts, you can read the first part here and the second part here. Thanks again Margie for this wonderful and enlightening interview.

Considering that you are also rooted in your indigenous culture, how does your work affect you as a Christian of indigenous background? Does it make you appreciate both your indigenousness and your faith? Or does it make you feel conflicted about some aspects of either your culture or your faith?
God and His Word is Supraculture. Christianity to me is not a religion (which is a system of beliefs, rituals and ideas designed to produce harmony with the divine in an effort to meet needs and gain favor) but a true Father and child, Boss and servant, Savior and saved, Friends-relationship with my Creator while culture is a means of survival.

For me, this puts everything in perspective — that I was created to give glory to my Creator. Therefore, every other thing in my culture that does not work towards this end is not worth keeping. As for my culture and indigenousness (as you call it), I can use them to worship this one true God by whose grace I have been counted worthy enough to die for, not of my own merit but of the act that His Son has accomplished for me. In more practical terms, now that my faith is in the finished work of Christ, I can now take what has been used ( e.g chants) to appease and manipulate the spirit world and turn it into a song in worship of my Creator/Savior, not to get Him to do my wishes and desires but to bring glory and thanksgiving to Him.

What process does a particular translation undergo before it is deemed ready for publication? For instance, how many drafts/revisions do you often have to do?

We follow a specific and ideal procedure. Here’s a summary:

BEGINNING TRANSLATION: The team decides what book to translate, in consultation with others involved.

Before beginning to translate, take time to study the whole book – read the whole book in versions. Also read the introduction to the book in a commentary or other translation help. Then focus on the text, taking a section (i.e., a meaningful chunk) at a time.

To achieve a good quality translation, the following procedures should be applied for each section translated:

Step 1. STUDY THE MEANING OF THE SOURCE TEXT (“EXEGESIS”): The first translation task is to study the text carefully, using Bible versions and commentaries, Bible atlases, Bible dictionaries and Bible Encyclopedia. This is called “doing the exegesis”. There should be at least one person on each translation team who is a skilled exegete. This step includes at least 5 or more activities such as outlining, researching, etc.

Step 2. MAKE THE FIRST DRAFT: The translator, a mother-tongue speaker of the Receptor Language (RL), makes the first draft of the translation.

Step 3. PREPARE SUPPLEMENTARY HELPS: (section headings, glossary, footnotes, illustrations, and others) Begin preparing these as you translate the accompanying text.

Step 4. KEYBOARD THE TEXT: The draft translation is typed onto a computer using Paratext or another software program that has been developed for this purpose. Especially if the spelling system uses a script other than the Roman alphabet or has special characters, the help of someone with computer skills will be needed at this point to set up the program.

Make a list of agreed guidelines for format. For example, rules for punctuation, for the use of capital letters, for paragraph divisions (whether to use “conversation” paragraph breaks or not), and for section divisions and headings.

Step 5. DO THE FIRST TEAM CHECK: Other translators on the team and the exegetical or project advisor go over the draft translation, making comments and suggesting improvements. The team discusses together. In projects where there is a project advisor on the team, the project advisor does a detailed exegetical check at this point.

Revise the translation: The comments and suggestions are evaluated and the draft is revised accordingly. The revision and updating of the text is repeated through the translation process.

“Key biblical terms” are terms that refer to the culture and religious practices of the people of Israel, and other words and phrases with special meaning in the Bible. There needs to be careful consideration, testing and agreement concerning the translation of these terms. This is an ongoing task.

Step 7. TEST THE TRANSLATION – PRELIMINARY TESTING: Take the translation to some representative speakers of the receptor language. Read it aloud. Have others read it. This is the first stage of gathering feedback to find out whether the translation is communicating to the intended audience. More extensive testing with a wider audience will be done at Step 10.

Step 8. MAKE THE BACK-TRANSLATION: A back-translation is a very literal translation or gloss into the major national or trade language of the area or English. It should be done by a speaker of the language other than the translator. It helps to show whether the translation is communicating effectively and accurately, and it serves as the basis for the consultant check.

Example: Romans 6:15, 16 KJV (King James Version)

15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

KANV (Kankanaey Version)

15 Sino ngarud di layden nina ay kalien? No maibasar din kaisalakanan tako sin seg-ang Diyos ay baken din panongtongpalan tako sin linteg, ay olay mambasbasol tako? Adi kabalin!

16 Ammoyo koma ay mo nampabagaen kayo si esa ay ipugaw ta siya tongpalen yo, sisya dedan din among yo. Isunga mo basol di tongtongpalen yo, basol met laeng di amoyo ya din pantongpalan na, maisian kayo en Dios ta madosa kayo. Ngem mo din on-onodan yo et din panongtongpalan yo en Diyos, maitorong sin kinalinteg yo.

BT (Back Translation of KANV)

What then does this mean to say? If our salvation is based on God’s grace, not our obeying the law, is it OK if we sin? It cannot be!

You ought to know that if you have yourself enslaved by a person in order to obey him, he of course is your master. So if sin is what you obey, sin just the same is your master and the result is that you will be separated from God to be punished. But if what you are following is your obedience to God, it will lead to your righteousness.

In the Back Translation, figures of speech are explained, key biblical terms (words/concepts that have an encompassing meaning/relevance in the whole Bible and should be translated consistently. e.g. love, prophesy, priesthood, sin, etc.) are listed and researched.

Step 9. DO THE CONSULTANT CHECK: A translation consultant works with the team to check the translation for faithfulness to the original Hebrew or Greek text. While the team uses reliable source texts in other languages, the final authority is always the original text. The consultant also does sample comprehension testing, training the team further in methods of testing. S/he helps find solutions to difficult translation problems and helps in other relevant ways. (In the early stages of a project, the consultant check may take place early in the process. With a more advanced project, where the team is experienced and established in good habits of translation, the consultant check may come after Step 10.)

Step 10. TEST THE TRANSLATION WIDELY: Test the translation with a wide selection of ordinary speakers of the receptor language. Find out whether it is communicating clearly and also what the hearers understand is indeed the correct meaning of the original text. Is the information load such that people can understand easily? Is the language natural and good style? Is it the right kind of language (register of language) used? It is very important not to miss out this step.

DISTRIBUTE THE TRANSLATION TO REVIEWERS: “Reviewers” are appointed to represent different denominations and dialects. They are invited to give feedback on the translation. The translation team receives and evaluates the suggestions and does the final revision of the text.

Step 11. FINAL EDITING, CONSISTENCY CHECKING AND POLISHING: Computer-based tools are used to check the consistency of the translation of key Biblical terms and of parallel passages in different Bible books, also spelling (including proper names), capitalization, format and punctuation.

Step 12. FINAL READING THROUGH: The translation team and key reviewers read through the text aloud together for the last time.

RECORDING AND/OR TYPESETTING: The translation is then prepared for publication. It may be recorded on tape for distribution on cassette or by radio. Or it may be published in print: the typesetting is done from the computerized text, the pages are formatted, illustrations are inserted, and finally the camera-ready copy is sent off to be printed. At that point the work of the distribution team begins!

For those who haven’t read your blog yet, where are you from in the Cordilleras?
There is a song that goes like this:
Kayapa, Oh! sprawling land of beauty
Kayapa, my heart belongs to thee
Over mountain hills beyond the tall pine trees
I will love thee ever be, where’er I may.

I was born deep in forests up in the mountainous village called Nansiakan belonging to a relatively unknown town of Kayapa in the eastern part of Nueva Vizcaya. I grew up in Tagaytay City, went to college in Baguio City and now lost soul in terms of permanent address.

Based on some of your comments in the blog, why do you admire Bishop Claver and his work? (Note: More on the Bishop here)
My admiration of Bishop Claver started when I interpreted for him during a Worldview and Scripture-In-Use Workshop in the summer of 2004. He is the author of the idea of Inculturation of Christianity in the Philippine setting. Lots of foreign authors (among them Edward Rommen, David Hesselgrave, Stephen Bevans) wrote about taking Christianity in Context but our very own Bishop Claver came up with a local theology that is relevant to the Philippine context.

His idea of Inculturation aims to make Christianity relevant to all kinds of people in all kinds of situation. Although I do not agree that Christianity should be presented solely to scratch people where they itch, that is to address people’s felt needs, I believe that Bishop Claver is one of those scholars who has the guts to depart from what is default, challenge the present and formulate a local theology that is pertinent to here and now.

RELATED POSTS: Obla: Margie Lumawan, Bible Translator (Part 1 and Part 2). PHOTO CREDIT: Margie Lumawan.

3 thoughts on “Obla: Margie Lumawan, Bible Translator (Part 3)”

  1. What a wonderful interview! Go, go, go! ate M (and 2 all Bible Translators as well;-d).

    Salamat din Sir BB for featuring such unique talents in your blogsite.

    God bless always.


  2. Marj, great job in this interview! Hmmm, come to think of it, we could do Bible Translation promotion this way, and recruitment also hehehehe…

    As always, excellent topic Igorot Blogger! =)

  3. Hi FBI,
    You’re welcome. God bless to you too 🙂

    Hi Fongakhan,
    Thanks. We hope you also continue your excellent translation work 🙂

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