CAPRO translation update – By Stuart McGill
I have some encouraging news after a difficult year for the CAPRO Cicipu project, in which progress was slow – partly because of personal differences with one of the translators, and partly because of Israel and Omonor were out of the country for much of the time.
Progress in translation
One of the translators has now left the team (probably best for all concerned). The remaining two native speakers (Amos Bako and Suleiman Busa) have been joined by Innocent, a new CAPRO missionary dedicated to translation. He has supervised the data entry of the gospel of Luke which is a big improvement to using pen and paper! The results of this are extremely encouraging. This is the longest piece of text ever written in the Cicipu language, and with a fledgling writing system and novice translators (neither of whom I’d worked with before). So I was more than a bit worried that the translation might be unreadable. Happily this is not the case at all, and reading it through I’ve really enjoyed seeing how the translators have wrestled with expressing the gospel in their own idiom.
To give just one example: Luke 24:12 Amma Bitrus ‘ungo wuf! udukwa ‘asu kasãu kana n-ilaɗi. The NIV is ‘Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb’ but this doesn’t really capture the dynamism of the Cicipu translation. The key word is ‘wuf’, which belongs to a part of speech (‘ideophones’) totally missing from European languages. These type of words (which are legion in Nigerian languages) pack an enormous amount of meaning into one short syllable (the dictionary definition of ‘wuf’ is ‘emphasises sudden action e.g. jumping up’). The closest we could get to this in English might be something like “Peter got up like a shot and ran to the tomb”, but this misses the poetic effect of the Cicipu.
Wuf is actually a word borrowed from Hausa (the language of wider communication in northern Nigeria) and it wouldn’t be out of place in a Hausa translation; however the Hausa version has the much duller Bitrus ya tashi ‘Peter got up’. It’s good to see that the translators avoid two pitfalls (1) literalism (slavish word-for-word translation from the Hausa) and (2) purism (being afraid to use words derived from Hausa when that is the most natural way to express something). I wouldn’t be surprised if this phrase has come from Amos’ pen – he is the best storyteller for miles around, and it is exactly this sort of flair that we were hoping he would be able to transfer to the written word.
The next step is for us to review the way the team are writing the language (spelling, punctuation, where to put spaces). It’s obviously key for us to get this right as early as possible to avoid bad habits and rework later. We are hoping to have a Nigeria-UK Skype workshop in February to review the team’s work so far. Achieving this will be a technical and organisational challenge!
One of Israel and Omonor’s other translation projects (Tal language) has recently recorded the “Jesus film” based on Luke’s gospel (http://www.jesusfilm.org/).
A mid-term goal of the project is to do the same for Cicipu – discussions are in progress – this is one reason they are concentrating on Luke.
The translation team has identified a plot of land to be used for building a permanent translation office. Purchasing this is a delicate operation with echoes of Abraham’s purchase of Sarah’s burial plot.
Israel and Innocent will be trying to finish negotiations and start the building in the next month or so.
Israel and Omonor have had some interesting discussions with the government about the possibility of teaching of Cicipu in primary school. Watch this space! Also Omonor will be travelling to Cicipuland very shortly to give a two-day literacy workshop. This was well received in April last year.
Omonor has been quite unwell with an infection lately and had to be hospitalised. She is on the mend now thankfully.
The project is looking to purchase two motorbikes for the translators. These will make a huge difference because of the distances the team has to travel. Omonor and Israel also have personal needs.
A big thank you to KC on behalf of Israel and Omonor for your faithful support for the project.