Nsenga has words for the numbers 1-5, 10, (arguably) 100, and 1000.
All other numbers are combinations of those.
So, 7 = “five and two.”
19 = “ten and five and four.”
30 = “tens, three” (Adjectives follow their nouns, so the “three” which modifies “ten” comes after it.)
We need to say the number 80.
They natural way to write that would be “tens, five-and-three.” 10 x (5+3) = 80.
The problem is that this looks like “tens, five. And three.” (10 x 5) + 3 = 53.
How do we disambiguate??
(We can’t use punctuation, as I have in the explanation above. We also can’t subtract, like Roman numerals XL or something.)
PS — You should see us trying to piece together 144,000!
On Sunday, May 5th, we publicly dedicated and launched the Nsenga Gospel of Mark. It’s hard to describe the event for people who have never been to an African church service. It’s even more difficult to describe how those 500+ people felt upon hearing the Scripture Lesson (and not just the announcements) in church on Sunday morning in their own language. We English-speakers take it for granted that there are Bibles in our language. Just imagine experiencing that for the very first time!
We actually had to take a short break for people to clap and cheer after the pastor read the Gospel lesson, Mark 3:31-35, in Nsenga. The people were very happy.
I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. But I will say that after the service, we stayed around for at least an hour, greeting people, having them thank us, and selling copies of Mark. We sold 38 copies, and left 15 more at the church on consignment. One man promised to go home and read his copy to his two daughters. Another man joked that he might need to buy another copy, because if he only brings home one there might be “problems.”
In upcoming weeks, we will carry the Gospel booklets to other churches, highlighting the work and sharing the power of God’s Word with people who are hungry to hear it in their own heart language. (It’s also available online!) Please keep praying that the Nsenga Bible will be accepted and used by many people throughout Zambia.
It’s good to give an update every once in while of where we are in the project, and what we’re currently working on. Here is our status, as of 05 May 2013. For details on what each stage in the translation looks like, check out this previous post.
Books completed: (1)
Books being checked by review committees: (4)
Books ready for style checking: (10)
- 1-2 Peter
- 1-2 Thessalonians
Drafted books waiting to be exegetically checked: (3)
- 1 Corinthians
Books in first-stage drafting: (3)
- 2 Corinthians
Books not yet started: (8)
- 1-2 Timothy
- 1-3 John
I’ve had a bout of malaria for the past few days. I don’t want to over-romanticize it. I wasn’t lying in a feverish haze on a straw mat under a palm tree, slipping in and out of consciousness and hovering near death. I didn’t need to be hospitalized. I didn’t even see a doctor.
But I will tell you that malaria sucks. And it’s an odd feeling, knowing you have a disease which, if you allow it to spread unchecked, has a good chance of killing you.
For me, the symptoms started with aching muscles. But I had been riding in the truck over bumpy roads for three days, and I figured aching muscles were nothing unusual.
I was also extremely cold. But here in Zambia, the rainy season is over, and it’s turning to fall-like weather, and I’ve always gotten cold easily. I figured I had just been hot for so long that a reasonable temperature felt cold.
Then the aching got worse, and started to spread to muscles that had nothing to do with riding in the truck. Like the muscles that move my eyeballs. The cold spread, too, so that by the time we got home Sunday night I was shivering.
So I pulled on my flannel jammies and dove in bed, even though it was only 7pm.
By midnight, the chills had turned to fever. I was stiff and sore all over. I slept fitfully, and at 7am I got up, took some ibuprofen, drank a cup of tea, took a steaming hot bath (the chills were back by then) and climbed back in bed.
Meanwhile, Janine gave me a malaria blood test, which was inconclusive. She checked the internet, and the local pharmacy, for the right amount of the right medicine for my symptoms, and made sure I drank plenty of water.
After a five hour nap, I got up, drank some more tea, took some more ibuprofen, and sat around painfully, trying not to spoil Sean’s 11th birthday. I watched him assemble his totally awesome LEGO Helm’s Deep set, and then we watched Two Towers. Then I slept for another 12 hours.
Tuesday was basically a repeat of Monday – wake up, tea, bath, nap, tea, sleep. That’s one thing about malaria: you just want to sleep all the time. At least the ibuprofen kept the body-ache and the fever-delirium to a minimum. I even managed enough concentration to read a book.
Today, Wednesday, is a public holiday in Zambia. So I’ve bought myself one more day to recover. The malaria treatment regimen is three days, so hopefully by tomorrow I’ll be back to my old self.
But, lest we forget, we are all infected with a disease which is spreading unchecked through our bodies, and which will eventually end in our death. Short the glorious return of Jesus, the death toll for the human race will ultimately rise to 100%. We can try to make decisions that will help us prolong and improve that life, but the time and manner of our passing are not ours to choose. As Gandalf tells Frodo, “…that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
Thanks to all who heard about my illness and prayed for my recovery. It seems those prayers are being answered. Please continue to keep our family and our work in your prayers, until we all reach the finish line. May God’s blessing and mercy be with you all.
We have had copies of our Nsenga Gospel of Mark for week or so now. We haven’t started to distribute them widely yet – we’re saving that for the Big Day: May 5th, when we’ll dedicate them in a special service and begin selling them to the general public.
Nevertheless, a few copies have been handed out to certain people close to the project: committee members who have been working and praying for years to see the Bible in their language; pastors of churches with key roles to play in the acceptance of the Nsenga Scriptures; the translators themselves, who want to show the fruits of their labor to family and friends as soon as possible.
We’ve gotten a lot of good reactions already. What a joy to share these with you!
- I handed a copy of the Nsenga Gospel of Mark to a committee member. I said, “Here it is! Part of God’s Word in your language!” He took the book in both hands (a sign of respect) and said quietly, “Can you imagine?”
- Another committee member saw the book for the first time, and read the text on the cover (“The Gospel of Jesus Christ, written by Mark, in modern Nsenga”) out loud. Then he said, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
- One of our most faithful reviewers, who spends days in the office with us going over every new draft verse-by-verse, said (with significant understatement), “This is good.”
- I also overheard one of the translators talking to the same reviewer later. They had a copy open on the desk, and they were looking at a verse together. The translator laughed and said, “What a silly mistake!” (You can’t win them all…)
- I was walking across the car park, and saw the committee treasurer sitting in his vehicle. I started to walk over to greet him, then noticed he was deeply engaged in something and didn’t notice me. I assumed he was on the phone, so I walked past quickly. Glancing in the window, I saw that he was reading his copy of the book of Mark.
- Finally, a picture of the reaction we want to see the most:
Blessings and love from
In August 2011, our family came to Zambia to help the Nsenga people translate the Bible into their mother-tongue.
By God’s grace, our work is bearing fruit. About half of the Nsenga translation of the New Testament has been drafted. We are checking those drafts against the original Greek, to insure that they are as accurate as possible. Reviewers throughout the province are reading our drafts to make sure that they are written in Nsenga that is natural and understandable.
Finally, on May 5th 2013, we will publicly dedicate the Nsenga Gospel of Mark in a special church service. This is the first printing of a book of the Bible in the modern Nsenga language. Rejoice with us!
Please join us in our work to bring the whole Word of God into Nsenga, so that more than a million precious souls will be able to read and hear about God’s great love for them in their own heart language.
May God bless you with peace as you hear His Word in your own mother tongue!
You can download a special bulletin insert/flyer to announce the dedication of the Nsenga Gospel of Mark by clicking here: Nsenga Mark Bulletin
This past week, the Nsenga Bible Translation Committee hosted workshops to help train people who will formally review drafts of our New Testament books. This is an important step in our publication process.
Because we wanted to have a good cross-section of Nsenga-speakers from all over Eastern Province, we held three workshops in three different towns, and had attendees from five different areas. We went to Nyimba, Petauke, and Chipata, and also invited people from Msoro and Feni areas to come and participate.
About 30 people came to the three workshops. Dr Nyirenda, the Translation Consultant from Bible Society of Zambia, led the workshop. Most of the discussion centered around the translation philosophy of the project (common-language, meaning-based versus word-for-word formal equivalence) and the target audience (younger-generation Nsengas from rural areas). We talked about the translation process, and the importance of reviews from all areas as a necessary stage in the process. We also discussed ways to publicize the translation work in the various churches that are represented in our areas.
The really interesting discussions came when we brought out a 1-page “sample” translation (Mark 8:34-38) and asked the reviewers to read and comment.
Wow! Before the workshop, I had prepared these pages for review by intentionally adding some errors – misspelled words, punctuation mistakes, grammatical inconsistencies, intentional use of loanwords from Chewa, etc. I needn’t have bothered. The reviewers found plenty to discuss without my help.
The main point of discussion was this: Should we intentionally use older, “pure,” possibly obscure Nsenga words in our translation in order to revive or re-kindle pride and interest in Nsenga – or should we instead use more common words which are more widely-known, even if they are borrowed loanwords from other nearby languages?
A good example is the word for “angel.” There is, apparently, an old Nsenga word for angel: malaika. But most people know the loanword mngelo. So, how much “teaching” of Nsenga do we want to do? How “clear” do we want the translation to be – even at the expense of Nsenga itself? (Another example of this will be the basis for a future post.)
Another phenomenon I found even more interesting. Nsenga is bordered by two other big, influential languages: Chewa and Kunda. Those reviewers who came from the Chewa-influenced areas close to the tarmac thought that many parts of our translation sounded “Kunda-ish.” Meanwhile, those Kunda-influenced speakers in the northern valley thought our translation sounded “Chewa-ized.” There was a lot of discussion over spelling, pronunciation, and word choice.
Does this mean that our translation, even the Nsenga language itself, is hopelessly corrupt, and any attempts to find a “common” Nsenga middle are bound to fail? I doubt it. What I think instead is that this means that our translation has found the “sweet spot” – the centre of the modern language, an easily-understandable common-language for the communication of God’s Word to the Nsenga people of today.