Monday, June 07, 2010

Multilingual prisms

I am sitting on the couch determined to share something. But as the many events and 'stuff that has happened' go whizzing through my brain, it only has the effect of stressing me out. I'd rather not go down there right now... not on the last day of this long weekend.

I'll tell you guys about something else completely random but very meaningful.

One of my current fixations is looking up Bible verses in Malay. I found an online Alkitab and have no end of fun searching through the references and reading through the Malay (or Bahasa Indo) translations.

It all started during one cell group meeting when we were discussing the next 'fruit' on the 'Fruits of the Spirit' series we were going through. As it sometimes happens, the discussion took a slight turn from the main question we were discussing. I cant remember why, but I suddenly randomly wondered out loud what 'Fruit of the Spirit' was called in Malay... would it be something like "Buah-buahan Roh Kudus"? The phrase sounded a bit strange and caused some laughter among the group, or among the Malaysians at least.

Everyone else forgot about it after the cell group meeting ended, but the next day I searched through the net for some online Malay or Bahasa Indo Bible translations...
"Tetapi buah Roh ialah: kasih, sukacita, damai sejahtera, kesabaran, kemurahan, kebaikan, kesetiaan, kelemahlembutan, penguasaan diri. Tidak ada hukum yang menentang hal-hal itu"
Galatia 5:22-23
My Malay is far from fantastic. it's dreadfully rusty after so many years of disuse (and don't even ask about my Hakka/Chinese). I use smatterings of it to get around as needed whenever I'm back in Malaysia for holiday... and the way I flail and falter around with it is dreadful. How is it possible that I was once able to speak it every single day at school and be able to churn out 2,000 word essays with it? However I know enough to be able to appreciate these translations. And of course I have the English version beside me as a guide for the more difficult words.

There's just something about reading verses and passages in another language... it adds a a certain depth and perspective that makes what you're reading so much more rich and meaningful. And I'm sure it's the same for any other language... Tamil, Chinese, Spanish, French, not to mention all the various dialects spinning off each one.

I envy people who are truly multilingual, because they have this prism to see so many different aspects and perspectives to a single phrase. I don't think it's something we are always conscious of, but I think it's something that's 'just there'. Even for the non-multilingual folk, I believe we can somehow sense this 'prism'... which somehow explains how we can be touched by a song, sung in a language we completely don't understand.

I remember so many times, a guest in church (such as a missionary or overseas visitor) doing a special song item in their native tongue... and I recall listening to songs I had no inkling of what they were singing in Spanish or Mandarin or Cantonese etc.... yet I could still be touched by it. Perhaps it has something to do with this common thread running through the all the souls of mankind.

I will leave you with this other translation of a familiar verse. See if you can figure out what is the verse or reference it is...
"Yesus Kristus tetap sama, baik dahulu, sekarang, dan sampai selama-lamanya"

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