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Word Wrestling

As in any translation project, translators working on the Naskapi Scriptures had to wrestle with innumerable words and concepts that didn’t translate easily.

“Because the Naskapis were used to hearing the Cree translation, they were familiar with biblical terms like righteousness, peace, humility, and sanctification,” says Bill. “Now that they have the entire New Testament, they’re learning more about what those words mean . . . now it’s a word in the context of a whole sentence.”

With the translation of Genesis now finished, the MTTs have struggled at times to translate words they’re encountering in the Old Testament.

“We had to do a lot of explaining,” says Bill. “The word ‘firmament,’ for example, translates as, ‘sky skin’— like a caribou skin.”

“Garden” was another term that had no Naskapi equivalent. “There are no gardens here,” Bill explains. “So what word do you use for ‘Garden of Eden,’ and have it communicate something logical in Naskapi? We finally came up with a word that means ‘a place for things to grow,’ like a park.

“For ‘camel,’ we just used the Cree word. When Naskapis read that word, they know it’s an animal with a big hump on its back.”

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