“That’s not our word.”

Even though Shekgalagari and Setswana are distinct languages from each other, they are both related. And almost everyone who speaks Shekgalagari also speaks Setswana on a daily basis. So there is bound to be some overlap between the languages; they share some words and grammar characteristics, but they have many of their own words and constructions as well.

This comes up in our translation project because sometimes we will choose a word for something that our reviewer’s identify as “too Setswana” of a word. Being bi-lingual often means there’s a lot of different words for things running around in your head and it can be easy to grab one from the other language when you are translating or speaking.

One such word that came up in checking was the word kgothele in Revelation 3:4, which means “contaminate” or “defile”. Which fits the context of the verse, talking about white robes being made dirty or unclean, but our reviewers said that the word isn’t Shekgalagari. It’s “too Setswana” for this Shekgalagari Bible. So we needed to find a new word.

The reviewers discussed this for a while, trying to find the right word: fits the context and also is pure Shekgalagari. It took a while, but we ultimately landed on the word tarika which means “to make dirty”. The example one woman gave was getting mud on a white shirt, which fits the context perfectly.

Taking those 25 minutes may seem like it would slow us down, especially when there is a perfectly good word already in the translation, one that everyone already understands. But that doesn’t take into account the history of the Bakgalagari and the Batswana people. To make a long story short, the Batswana and Bakgalagari people have had an acrimonious relationship. Keeping a word in the language of their oppressors in the Bible decreases the “Shekgalagari-ness” of the translation and reinforces the idea that Shekgalagari isn’t good enough for use.

This is the opposite of our desire. We want the Bakgalagari people to know that not only is their language good enough for use, but that God speaks their language too! He knows and loves the Bakgalagari as much as he loves any speaker of Setswana. Pray that more of the Bakgalagari people would know this truth. Pray that they would take to heart and realize that they are God’s people, known and loved for who they are AND the language they speak.

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