The Gospel presentation “Two Ways to Live” is one of my favourites, especially because of the great iPhone app that they distribute to help lazy people like me. So I was very pleased to hear that SIM Malawi has worked with others to translate this Gospel presentation into Chichewa, partly using the services of our Chichewa teacher.
However, it also gave us an interesting insight into the challenges of interpreting meaning when crossing cultural and language boundaries!
You see a straightforward translation of ‘Two Ways to Live’ would be ‘Njira Ziwiri Kukhala’ [ways, two, to live]. But Chichewa has an amazing way of allowing one word, eg khala, to mean many things and relying on the context of the conversation to make the distinction. So ‘Njira Ziwiri Kukhala’ could also mean ‘Two Ways to Sit’! (Or indeed two ways to be, to exist, to inhabit, to reside.)
I am so pleased our teacher caught this possible ambiguity and used the more careful wording ‘Njira ziwiri m’mene Tingakhalire” or ‘Two ways how we can be’, with the sub-title ‘zisankho ziwiri zomwe timakumana nazo” or ‘two choices we face’.
And what a great reminder to us all about the need for God’s guidance and inspiration about the words we choose when we look to share His Word!
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver (Proverbs 25:11)