This morning at the end of my Bible reading time, I was thrilled to open the Bible app on my Nexus tablet and struggle through the first couple verses of in Jarai (with the help of Lap Siu’s online Jarai dictionary). That’s right: the Jarai Bible, Old and New Testament, has been digitally published and is downloadable as part of a BIble app! Here’s a little of the backstory.
During my time in Texas, I became friends with a Jarai man who had spent years translating the Bible into his native language. He grew up in the Central Highlands of Vietnam and immigrated to the States as a college-aged young man. By the end of my time in Texas, he had finished translating and revising the Bible and was doing final checks: for example, making sure that each name mentioned in the Bible is consistently spelled, and ensuring that every opening quotation mark is matched by a closing mark. (Thrilling work, yes?)
Four days ago I received an email saying that the completed Bible has now been published online and is available on YouVersion’s Bible app. This is probably the very first complete Bible to be published in Jarai. Go to www.bible.com/versions/894 if you’d like to see the translation. The Jơrai Bible Association plans to print the Bible next year in Vietnam and begin distribution. (Jarai, Jorai, and Jơrai are all variant spellings of the same language name.)
Some of the challenges of translation were immediately obvious. For example, maidservant translates into 5 Jarai words: pô ding-kơna đah-kơmơi, literally, ‘person servant female’. (Jarai doesn’t use the hyphens, but I’ve added them to show which pairs of words have the meaning of a single word.) The Hebrew, like the English, uses a single word, שׁפחה. The compactness of Hebrew poetry is hard to transfer into another language, especially when it takes several words to unpack a single Hebrew word.
The Jarai dialect used in this translation is a fairly standard variety in Vietnam (it’s from the Pleiku region), and I believe that the translator aimed to use vocabulary that is shared across dialects. However, the language changes dramatically as you travel from Pleiku to the border with Cambodia. This new translation will certainly be a help to the Jarai Christians in Cambodia (some of whom now have smartphones and can download the app!), but the church there needs a translation or revision that is aimed specifically at the dialect (or cluster of dialects) spoken in Cambodia. It’s our aim to help the Jarai church in Cambodia produce exactly that. Someday, we hope to announce here that the Cambodian Jarai Bible is available for download to your smartphone.
123:1 To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he has mercy upon us.
3 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
4 Our soul has had more than enough
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud. (ESV)