God speaks my language, too
New translation of the New Testament and Psalms into Kalanga, just off the printing press
Francistown, Botswana / Bergen-Bleckmar (County of Celle, Germany) -lkm / selk-
9.8.2009: People in Botswana know that it is hard work to plough a piece of land for the first time. Stones and thorn trees have to be removed, and the hard ground broken up. But even in the following years more stones need to be removed and tree stumps uprooted that were left standing the first year.
A first translation of the Gospels and Revelation into the Kalanga language had been published in 1929. It was last reprinted in 1985. At the same time, work started on a new and complete translation of the New Testament which was published in 1999. This work was done in the name of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa with the support of Lutheran Churches in America, Germany and southern Africa. The Mission of Lutheran Churches – Bleckmar Mission seconded missionary Klaus Pahlen as coordinator of the translation project.
At the same time the Bible Society became more and more involved, and took over when work started on the Old Testament. A new team of translators (Tafuluka Kubuya, Phillip Mothetho, Mbakiso Nkanga, Portia Tema Baseki), training courses in biblical Greek and Hebrew in Nairobi, computers and top of the range computer software offered new and better working conditions. A few years later, as a result of the general impression and combined feedback from users of the New Testament the Bible Society of Botswana decided to suspend work on the Old Testament and thoroughly revise the New Testament. The female translator on the team remarked at that time, „tolimulula“, we are re-ploughing.
Now the Psalms have been added to the New Testament, the translation has appeared in print, and the impression is very clear: This translation was done on the basis of the original Greek, intensive work with mother tongue speakers in many villages has resulted in fluency and naturalness of the text, and it was done by translators who were driven by the desire to give people the Word of God in their mother tongue.
ut something else has changed in the meantime. On July 10, 2009, a traditional Kalanga dinner was held as a fundraiser for the public presentation on August 8. Guest of honour and main speaker was the Honourable Judge Mpaphi Phumaphe from the High Court of Botswana. The national newspapers further spread the word. On August 8 it became evident how far the team of translators and those who had worked with them had come with their hard work: Ten years ago about 70 people had come to witness the public presentation of “Ndebo Mbuya”, the Kalanga New Testament; now about 1000 people filled the giant, festive tent. The Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs was present and in his speech referred not only to the Great Commission in Matthew 28 but read the words himself. The Honourable Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture was also present and underlined the importance of language for faith and culture. Translation consultants and Bible Society representatives had come from different countries, all the Botswana missionaries of the Lutheran Bible Translators (LBT) were there including two representatives from the United States; team members of translation projects in two other minority languages in Botswana – Shiyeyi and Naro – had come too to be part of this extraordinary event. Especially remarkable however, was the number of participants from many church groups in the entire area; from the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Reformed and Anglican churches all the way to African Independent groups. By far not all of them were Kalanga speakers, but they all took part in the event. Choirs sang songs which had been translated into Kalanga especially for this day, and many a singer had made an effort to sing in a language which he does not speak.
There is certainly room for future revisions. Paging through the new book the reader still comes across some stones that need to be rolled way. The word for “prophet” for instance is still translated as “foreteller of truth”, and where the Holy Scriptures speak of wine – including the institution of the sacrament of the altar – the name for the fermented juice of an indigenous berry has been used. A lot of clear preaching and teaching will be needed here in the congregations.
But “the fact that the translation has reached this milestone is reason for great thankfulness“, says missionary Daniel Schmidt in Francistown who took part in the celebration and whose report (including pictures) can be found under (www.mission-bleckmar.de <http://www.mission-bleckmar.de/>). There is hope that a complete translation of the Holy Scriptures is not too far off – meanwhile the translators have already done a first translation of most of the books of the Old Testament. Thus the motto chosen for this 8th of August, 2009, becomes a reality: „Ndzimu banolebeleka lilimi gwangu naigo“ – God speaks my language too!
Translation: D. J. Schmidt]
Ein ganz herzliches „Dankeschön“ an Missionar Schmidt, der diese Übersetzung angefertigt hat, extra für unsere englisch-sprechenden Freunde und Förderer!