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Translation of Bible to Naro nears completion

GANTSI: A 25-year-old project by the Christian Reformed Churches in the Netherlands to translate the Bible to a Sesarwa dialect is nearing completion.

The project was initially spearheaded by Reverend Bram le Roux in 1991 after he saw the need to translate the Bible to Naro, a Sesarwa language spoken largely in Gantsi.

On Monday, Reverend Hessel Visser of D’Kar where the project is based told Mmegi that the implementation team translated the New Testament in 2012 and is now working on the Old Testament.

“The project has its challenges such as the lack of some Naro words such as lake, ship, river, waves,” he said.

“We have had to improvise. For example, the general Naro word for water was expanded to ‘tshaa - d’xoo,’ meaning large amounts of water which could then be used to refer to the word ‘sea’. “In some cases we even borrowed from Setswana like the word for ship.”

Visser explained that some years ago, le Roux had approached the mission to help in identifying people to assist with the translation of the Bible. The mission in turn contacted Visser and his wife, Coby. “It was a mammoth task. We started by analysing the Naro language first before doing anything else. We collected data on the language which took quite some time because Naro was only spoken and not written,” said Visser.

The language, according to the Reverend, has 28 clicks and is complex in that there are some words such as ‘we’ which can be said in 28 different ways depending on whether the subject matter concerns dual, plural, feminine, masculine

or a mixture.

Visser assembled a team of four people from D’Kar to help in the translation project. “They drafted everything to see if the languages tallied accurately and if the message was the same as the original and if it communicated properly. We also worked with a consultant from the Netherlands who came once a year to assist us,” he explained.

The translation involves editing and consultation, after which scripts are given to the relevant people who in turn take them to locals to gauge whether they can read and understand the text. “Some people, especially the illiterate, are visited at their homes to give them copies so that they can be helped with the reading,” he said.

The church, however, is not only involved in the translation, but is also engaged in literacy work where people are taught how to read and write in Naro, in order to facilitate smooth transitions to literacy in other languages.

“There are beginners’ lessons which are attended by older people who are completely illiterate and these run for one to two years. We also run short workshops for people who went up to primary level and these take a week,” Visser said.

So far the project has produced a significant amount of written works in the form of a dictionary, short stories book, Bible and traditional stories and traditional songs in CD form. Christian songs in the Naro language have also been produced.


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