Nina, a field tester in the Kalmyk Bible translation project, is one of the earliest local workers to get involved in IBT activities in Russia. She started her work with IBT in 1992 and has continued to the present day. When I asked her how she began working on Bible translation and whether she was chosen for this task because she was a language scholar or a Christian believer, she at first could not answer my question. It seemed that the exact reason was still a mystery to Nina herself. We started unravelling the tangle of that period of her life together.
IBT has published a special English-language book dedicated to its silver anniversary of being a fullfledged Russian organization. The present volume is a compilation of IBT newsletters dealing with our various Bible translation projects, written by IBT staff member Tanya Prokhorova over the course of the past decade based on her interviews with project workers. The golden thread that runs through all of these newsletters is Tanya’s focus on the human face of IBT. It is not only about producing a good translation of the Bible into many languages (although this is undoubtedly a key part of the process), but about serving people – many people, different people, from a large variety of backgrounds, who happen to speak many different languages. In other words, the final goal of our work is human-centric, not book-centric. And this translation work is not only done for people, but by people – once again, many people, different people, from a large variety of backgrounds.
During the covid-19 quarantine, it was impossible to hold in-person training seminars, so IBT’s planned seminar on translating two of the Minor Prophets was conducted as a webinar. The texts of Habakkuk and Malachi make up only a small part of the full Bible, only 7 chapters in all. Let us mentally project ourselves into this webinar. Specifically, you and I are taking part in a discussion focused on an even smaller fragment – a single Biblical verse, Malachi 2:2. We see this text through a Zoom-conference window. The selected verse is not particularly difficult exegetically. But it turns out to be quite complex in terms of different perceptions of the same concepts held by different cultures.
Here is Mal 2:2 in the Revised Standard Version: “If you will not listen, if you will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; indeed I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart.” What is a “blessing”? And a “curse”? When using these words today...
The Evenkis are spread out over a huge part of the Siberian taiga. According to the 2010 census of Russia, the total number of ethnic Evenkis is about 38,000, but it’s very hard, if not impossible, to estimate the exact number of actual speakers of the Evenki language. Some people name Evenki as their mother tongue just because they feel a connection to it, not because they actually speak it.
At translation workshops, many translation teams gather together to work on a practical task and exchange their experience with their instructors and with one another. The entire process resembles a massive brainstorm session. The intensity of the work gives birth to new translation decisions and sometimes even to completely new approaches to translation.