What is Lupai?
(How translations multiply and why it's a good thing)
Let's back up about 20 years to when a New Testament was published in the Wape dialect of the Olo language, spoken near the town of Lumi in the mountains south and east of us. You can call it Wape Olo.
Another variety* of that language, Olo Pai, is spoken closer to us. Olo Pai speakers have already joined the translation project because they don't understand the Wape Olo New Testament. It's almost their language, but not quite.
So what is "Lupai?" One of our teammates answered my question. "It is probably very close to the same as Olo Pai, but we haven't figured out yet how much they are the same or how big the differences are."
When we have encountered this situation before with various varieties in three other language families, this is how it has often developed: The more the translators from the different language varieties work together, the more differences they find. They marvel at how different their varieties really are when they need to be precise about something specific, as you do when translating the Bible.
Minor differences you can ignore when buying and selling produce with each other at a farmer's market become huge obstacles when you are writing something down that both communities will read and hear.
Eventually they decide neither language community could use the other's translation, so they agree to work together to produce two translations (or three or four, as the case may be). Their collaboration in the context of our larger translation team then produces better quality translations than either group would produce on their own.
Now you know why I like the picture with that little sign that says "Lupai." There's a story that goes with that little sign, it may be just beginning, and maybe the Lord will give us the privilege of having a part in it.
Whatever happens with Olo Pai and Lupai, thank you for helping us to help them. We are in this work together because we want everybody to have a quality Bible translation that speaks directly to their heart, not something that sounds a little funny or a bit odd, the way "those other people" speak on the other side of the mountain.
In Bible translation, close enough is not good enough.
Serving our King together,
John Nystrom (& for Bonnie)
P.S. Emil Ninkure and I and the other consultants are making good progress on Ephesians 3-6 and Colossians 1. Please pray we have an excellent draft ready for the translation workshop in April.
* "A Language variety" is somehow related to another language variety. It could be a different language or a different dialect, depending on whose definitions we are using. But those labels are not important to me. What matters to me is this: Is there a Bible translation available or in process that will truly speak to their hearts, or will they need their own?