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Are There Untranslatable Words?

Are There Untranslatable Words?

Are there untranslatable words? Yes, this comes up frequently in the process of Bible translation…

The Rendille nomads in Northern Kenya have no word for “crucifixion”, so how could the Rendille translation team get this idea across?

lakakaaha: “(is) stretched out and pegged down”.

The Rendille translators chose a word that is very common in their culture: lakakaaha: “(is) stretched out and pegged down”. They slaughter their sheep and goats in a caring and virtually painless way. Next the hides, used for clothing, hut coverings or selling, are cured. They stretch them out on the ground and peg them down, where they are left to dry out in the merciless sun. Or they stretch them out tight and fastened them on a wooden frame. 

That this was done to a fully-alive person with nails on a frame specially designed to inflict maximum pain, communicated the concept of this cruel death sentence very powerfully.

By Johanna Pillinger



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