Thursday, 18 September 2008

Love 101 FM Host and the Jamaican Bible

Last night my wife disturbed my sleep in order to alert me to a call-in programme on our most listened religious radio station, LOVE 101. The night's topic was the "Patois Bible."

It was obvious that the host, Vivian Bonner, was against the project - one could easily detect a certain level aversion in his tone of voice, the manner in which he responded to supporters and the way in which he tried to represent the views of supporters when trying to engage non-supporters in conversation.

I was somewhat disturbed at Bonner’s depiction of the persons he projects would benefit most from the project - the “little man down there" (!), the person who doesn't understand English, the uneducated, the man in the ghetto, those who cannot understand meteorological jargon. I would question whether or not the “man up there” understands the Scriptures written in Elizabethan English – (the majority of Jamaicans prefer the AV). Moreover, Jamaican Linguist, F.C. Cassidy accurately states, “The Creole language, even for the most cultivated speaker...has a force of intimacy that the upper language can never offer” (quoted in Ross Issues in Creole Translation; 2003). To be fair, Bonner acknowledges the “forcefulness” of Jamaican and confesses he would support the project if it doesn’t lend itself to comedy, the subject of the next paragraph.

Bonner states that his primary objection to the Jamaican Creole Translation Project is the possibility of it being comical and thus reducing the sacredness of Holy Writ. (Now, where have I heard that before?) He even believes more Jamaicans would attend church just to hear the Scriptures read in Jamaican Creole (and preached from in Creole, I guess) but for a hilarious effect. It seems to me that Bonner’s argument is not based upon proper reasoning. Indeed, one must consider all the possible repercussions of embarking upon such a project as he insists; nonetheless, it doesn’t seem logical for one to abandon such plans because some persons might laugh. Does this reasoning seem reasonable: “B is a potential outcome of A therefore A is not to be embarked upon? If we were to live by this, principle, we would end up doing nothing.

Perhaps one could turn the argument on its head by arguing that persons will burst out in laughter on several occasions; however, I would like to suggest that such laughter would not manifest disrespect, rather joy of hearing God’s word read and preached in a way they had never heard it before. This kind of emotion evoked by mother-tongue Bibles is a phenomenon Bible translator have witnessed time and time again – it would not be peculiar to Jamaica.
Bonner’s concern is genuine; however it seems to me that it’s invalid because it’s constructed on a false understanding of languages in general and Jamaican in particular, a deficient acquaintance with issues surrounding the translating of the Bible into English (and Latin and German...) and a want in understanding of the basics of the theory and practice of (Bible) translation.

All of this reminds me of the Bible Society's need to develop an effective public awareness programme.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

vivian bonner is truely an infidel and assanine fool who does not take care of his child less alone be ethical enough to care about the welfare of others outside his conceited world.