Crossing language barriers

By Bill Eckermann

By means of support through LBTA (Lutheran Bible Translators Australia), I am able to help other Bible translators in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu by working as a translation consultant. I also work with a team of Sudanese people here in Australia whose aim is to re-translate the Ma’di Bible. Questions I am frequently asked […]

By means of support through LBTA (Lutheran Bible Translators Australia), I am able to help other Bible translators in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu by working as a translation consultant. I also work with a team of Sudanese people here in Australia whose aim is to re-translate the Ma’di Bible.

Questions I am frequently asked when talking to people about these tasks are: “Don’t you have to know the language of the translation you’re consulting?” or “When did you learn to speak the Ma’di language?” Thankfully, the consulting I do with translators working in other languages, and the Ma’di work, is made possible by means of a “Back Translation” which is a very literal rendering of the actual translation back into English. I am able to then access the content and “flavor” of the translation, which enables me to check it for accuracy, and to offer any suggestions or advice.

Over the past 4 or 5 years I helped translation teams working in Vanuatu, by visiting them and serving as their translation consultant. Leaving family and the comforts of home is not always easy.  But it does have some fringe benefits too, such as meeting people travelling along similar paths to the one taken by my wife Di and I and our children when worked we with the Bukawa people in PNG for thirteen years. Hand in hand with this work are opportunities to travel, and to get a taste of other languages and cultures.

Unfortunately, I will never be able to have the amount of contact with the Ma’di men which would be required to gain even a basic competency in their language. The same applies to other languages being translated, and for which consultancy and checking is required.  However, the avenue of the “Back Translation” enables me (and other consultants) to cross the language borders effectively and continue to help with the task of bringing God’s Word to people in the language that they know and understand the best.


If you would like to consider the opportunity to donate to Hanna Schulz, who is now serving as a linguist and translation advisor in Papua New Guinea, you are invited to go to https://wycliffe.org.au/member/hanna/

Read more stories about our partner church in Papua New Guinea at https://www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/international-partners/papua-new-guinea/

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About the Author : Erin Kerber


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