A Glimpse Into Waskosky Bible Translation Ministry

Shedd Waskosky and his translation team in Ecuador.To translate the New Testament into Salasaca Quichua has required and continues to require both skill and dedication from our team and God’s faithfulness in giving wisdom and perseverance. The original meaning in Greek must first be clearly understood by Carlos and Roberto as they look at a variety of Spanish versions and a few versions from related Ecuadorian Quichua dialects. In addition to Spanish and Quichua resources, we, as English speakers, have the benefit of many English versions and resource materials.

Once the meaning is well understood, it must be transferred accurately, completely, and naturally into the indigenous language – Salasaca Quichua. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians was drafted back in the early 90’s by an inexperienced team with little to no oversight by us, while we were still learning Quichua. In other words it was not just a rough draft … in places it was bumpy, rugged, choppy, rocky, coarse, fuzzy, wrinkly, tangled, and unfinished.  After having revised 1 Corinthians about a year ago Carlos and Roberto, with lots of translation experience under their belts, began revising 2 Corinthians, the most challenging book that we have worked on up until now. This summer while Shedd taught second language acquisition to linguistic students at UND in Grand Forks, Kris worked through each verse of the thirteen chapters, writing questions about complex Quichua constructions and unfamiliar expressions and making suggestions as she went.

From mid-August to mid-October the two of us looked at each verse, discussing the accuracy of it, asking if phrases and sentences were connected together with the right logic, checking for cohesiveness not only in the connecting verses but throughout the book as a whole, looking for consistency in how certain expressions and key doctrinal terms have been translated here compared to other books which have already been more well polished. Most of those days we would connect via Skype with Carlos and Roberto in Ecuador. At times we explained places where we thought the meaning might be slightly inaccurate or where a small piece of information may have been left out. Or, we asked questions about what specialized meaning a certain combinations of Quichua words might have. Or, we explained something which may have been unclear from the Spanish versions to a person who views the world from the Quichua cultural perspective.

For instance, in a recent Skype call we addressed an easy issue which we had overlooked in countless revisions. The Quichua for 2CO 11:25 looked very similar to the Reina Valera Bible, an older version of Spanish: Tres veces he sido azotado con varas.  Quinsa cutinmi varan azotigaguna. In English this means: “Three times they-whipped (me) with-a-stick. Both azoti and vara are borrowed into Quichua from Spanish. With borrowed words there is always a chance that the meaning is not the same between languages. In Spanish the basic meaning of azotar is “to whip with a long thin flexible instrument”. Could the Quichua azotina include the meaning of “to hit with a non-flexible stick-like object”? We also doubted that a Quichua vara is the same as a Spanish vara (rod, stick, baton, cane). After years of living in Salasaca we knew that alcaldes (men who sponsor community festivals) carry varas (special sticks which identify them as alcaldes). Over Skype Carlos confirmed that using vara in 2CO 11:25 could lead Salasacas to wonder if Paul was threatened by alcaldes. We suggested that using tacagaguna (meaning “hit”) would be a more accurate way to express what happened to Paul, and he agreed. So now 2CO 11:25 says: Quinsa cuntinmi caspin (with an ordinary stick) tacagaguna (they hit). Another refinement in accuracy … yay!

During our visit to Salasaca in October/November, God enabled us to complete the “Comprehension Checking” of 2 Corinthians. During this check (which is also known as “Community Testing”) we shared 2 Corinthians with two young people from Salasaca to test how well it communicates. Fabian and Elida, who have not grown up in the church and weren’t familiar with what Paul was writing to the Corinthians, did an outstanding job of listening to each section and giving a summary of the main theme. They also listened well to each verse, answering specific questions about the details therein. This check pointed out some verses which needed further clarity and some wording which was awkward or grammatically incorrect in some way. We have now fixed those verses.

The Waskosky’s Bible translation ministry has been used in children’s Bibles and books.Next it is important that our revision of 2 Corinthians be carefully looked at by a trained consultant to ensure that it is accurate to the original text. We hope to do this during our upcoming trip to Ecuador from January 9 to February 7.  Our new consultant will connect with us from Colombia, South America over Skype, asking us questions and giving us suggestions of ways we might improve the translation to meet the required standards. Previous consultants have shared with us how problematic passages have been handled by others and have advised on more general aspects of the process. Each consultant gives final approval of the translated book prior to publishing it.

You might ask … how does a consultant in Colombia understand Salasaca Quichua well enough to ask questions and give advice? He doesn’t. For that reason we create a “Back Translation”. Kris spent most of November putting the Salasaca Quichua translation back into Spanish … using a sentence structure more like Quichua and putting Salasaca words and phrases into their somewhat literal meanings in Spanish. During December our partner Larry Salay began to work with Segundo and Fabian to polish the back translation … checking it against the current Salasaca Quichua version and a standard version in Spanish. The back translation should reflect as closely as possible the meaning and grammatical structure of Salasaca Quichua, so that our consultant who doesn’t know the language can evaluate how adequate the translation is. Usually most sections are excellent and we fly right through them, and some verses need a bit of work.

In summary, during the checking of 2 Corinthians many revisions are made along the way to include all necessary corrections and to improve understandability.

Before 2 Corinthians is published we will also do a read-through of the book with a group of Salasacas, more consistency checks, and a final proof-reading, another intense and demanding task.

Prayer points for the work on 2 Corinthians
Not only may the Salasaca translation sound sweet to the people’s ears, but also may the believers “translate” God’s truth by living in such a way that the Gospel comes alive to those who are watching and listening. May the New Testament in Salasaca be much more than a work of literature; may it be daily food for the souls of spiritually hungry people.

We realize that this is a spiritual battle as God’s Word is being checked and prepared for distribution. Satan can put many obstacles in our way – travel problems, thefts, village events which can distract, sickness which can take away the ability to think well, etc. Please pray for protection on the whole process, for health, stamina, focus, and progress.

Generally, we begin each working day with prayer for God’s guidance. May He continue to give us insight into the meaning behind Paul’s writing and into the complexities of the Salasaca language. May the continual revision process not be just an academic exercise but may each of us glean daily lessons from the Word as we reflect on the truths in it.

Pray that our consultant will help us to identify rough spots that needed smoothing and that we can quickly arrive at good improvements to clear up misunderstandings. Pray for agreement on wording and other translation issues.

The translation process is long and arduous. Pray that none of us on the team would give up but that we would continue with increased enthusiasm.

Changing the hearts and minds of a people group often takes much longer than the translation process itself.  May fears, animistic traditions, and an increasing emphasis on money and materialism not keep people in bondage. May the New Testament in their mother tongue help believers to understand who God is, and what Christ did, so they can stand strong against false teaching. May the effort of missionaries and local believers combine in culturally sensitive ways so that there will be much fruit for the kingdom of God. May many Salasaca people be transformed by the Gospel!

Although the Salasaca language is spoken by a population of less than 15,000 people, each individual is precious to God. This project has the potential to greatly impact the culture when people understand God's personal message to them in their own language. Pray that 2 Corinthians and the other books of the New Testament will be well received and thoroughly understood. May the translated scriptures give spiritual life so that the Lord would be honored and glorified by even more people.

“Lord God, we praise You that the truth of Your Word can be expressed in every language of the world.  We pray that You would help all the translators who diligently work to find the best way to express Your truth into local languages.  We praise You for the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ so that we are no longer Your enemies and for granting to us Your joy and peace. May your message of love continue to transform people here and around the world.  Amen!”