There it was, in my report: “March 2, 2015, 11:42 AM in Bamako, last verse of Revelation!” It was my report for the Songhay workshop I was doing at the end of February and the first of March this year. We finished checking the last verse of the last book to be checked in the New Testament in our new translation in Songhay, a major language in Mali, West Africa.
I’m sure all of us have heard our children ask at times on a long trip, “Are we there yet?” So we might ask, if our Songhay team has checked the last verse of the last book of the New Testament, “Are we done yet?” Fortunately or unfortunately, the answer at this point, as it was with our children, is “No.” The final phase of a translation project is now about to begin, the phase called “quality checks.”
So what are the quality checks, and why are they needed? Why can’t we just be done when the last verse is done? Well, there are good reasons for the quality checks, so let me explain.
Probably the most important of the quality checks is the check for key terms. These are the terms found throughout the Bible that are key to understanding doctrine and practice. While these terms are well established in English Bibles, most of them are new terms in the target language and culture. For example, the word “holy” may have been translated as “very clean” in one place, “pure” in another, or “set apart” in a third. So now that we have checked the translation verse by verse, we want to check these important words term by term across all the verses where they appear. This assures that the Bible translation will teach accurate doctrine and practice consistently and systematically.
A second important quality check is the checking of parallel passages in the gospels, historical books, and epistles. We all know that each of the gospel writers told about the same events at times, and that three of them, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, did this more than John does. (We call them the “synoptic” gospels for that reason.) Sometimes they use the exact same wording, and sometimes they change the words a little for a different emphasis. We want the translation of those passages to do the same thing. Also, sometimes when comparing the parallel passages, we find that the translator said it better in one place than in another. In that case we want to use the better translation in both places.
You probably have heard enough about quality checks to see how important they are, so I won’t describe all the other checks in detail. We check for spelling, quoted speech, numbers, New Testament quotes of the Old Testament, and other things, as well as proofreading and formatting checks. When all that is done, then when the question “Are we done yet?” comes up, we can gladly say, “Yes, we are!”