Rhetorical questions

The Bible is full of rhetorical questions, but rhetorical questions simply don’t exist in some languages. This can present some unique challenges for Bible translation.

Fortunately we discovered that the Teop language can handle rhetorical questions, and actually has a few words that indicate rhetorical questions. However not all biblical rhetorical questions can be retained. Our solution? Translate them as a statement.

Here are some special Teop words that we can use when translating rhetorical questions, with examples from our recent advisor check on John:

bene’  This word is used to ask a rhetorical question where the speaker strongly believes that the answer is ‘no.’ There’s no English word that exactly fits it, but I tend to use ‘really’ when translating it back into English. Example – John 1:46

NIV: ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’

Teop: ‘Nasaret? Ta taba ta mataa bene na ante nana tea tavusu teebona?’

English translation of Teop: ‘Nazareth? Can anything good really come from there?’

taagin’  This is one of my favourite Teop words! It basically means ‘How is it possible?’ and expresses incredulity about something. Example – John 6:52.

NIV: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’

Teop: ‘E Jisu pasi taagin hee koa nom araara bona suini nae, eara re anie?’

English translation of Teop: ‘How is it possible that Jesus will give us his body so that we will eat it?’

This story is from Wycliffe Today – July 2017 Edition (PDF)

About the Author: Julie Mackay, Translation Facilitator (PNG). Find out more


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