Work Papers
of the
Summer Institute of Linguistics
in Saint Lucia

Number 10:

Translating Poetry and Figurative Language
into St. Lucian Creole

by Peter Samuel and David Frank

A paper presented at the Thirteenth Biennial Conference of the Society for Caribbean Linguistics in Mona, Jamaica, in August, 2000.

© 2000 SIL International

Translating Poetry and Figurative Language into St. Lucian Creole

by Peter Samuel and David Frank
SIL International

Good translation usually focuses on the re-expression of meaning in a different form, but the translation of poetry and figurative language is a more delicate matter, requiring that more attention be given to how the forms of the source language are re-cast in the receptor language. Translation of poetry and figurative language must then involve not only an examination of the intended meaning of the author and the formal devices used in the source language, but also an examination of the poetic forms, if they exist, and the figurative devices available in the receptor language.

Ideally, a translator of poetic and figurative language would be someone who is skilled in poetry and artistic verbal expression. The translator would then re-express the poetic and figurative language of the source language in the receptor language fluently as though he were creating an original work of art. Unfortunately we cannot all be as skilled as John Keats translating an Ode on a Grecian Urn, and so the next best thing is to be aware of the nature of the figures of speech in the source language and to be acquainted with the techniques of translating figurative language. Still, this is best done by a translator who has some degree of skill in terms of verbal expression.

St. Lucian Creole (also knows as Kwéyòl) is rich in figurative language, including metaphor, riddles, parables (utterances with a veiled meaning), and proverbs. The present paper examines the techniques of translating poetic and figurative language into Kwéyòl, drawing out a set of guiding principles. The authors draw on a wealth of experience in translating poetic and figurative language from English and other languages into Kwéyòl, discussing the challenges and illustrating the problems and their solutions with a liberal quantity of examples.

The Challenge of Translating Poetic and Figurative Language

Translation is much more than the substitution of the words of one language with the words of another language. For one thing, such an approach would ignore the grammatical differences between the two languages. For another thing, proper translation must take into consideration the use of idioms and other language-specific uses of figurative language, and even worldview. Often, to translate an idiom word-for-word is equivalent to translating half-way. To translate a metaphor literally without checking to see if it is understood is to translate inadequately. Proper translation must take into consideration the appropriate use of words, grammatical constructions, idioms, verbal artistry, ambiguity, and discourse style.

Types of figurative language to watch out for in translation include metaphor and simile, personification and apostrophe, metonymy and synecdoche, hyperbole and irony, idioms and proverbs. Satisfactory translation of any of these depends upon awareness, testing, and raw talent. A good translator should have a solid understanding of both the source text and the resources available in the receptor language, combined with an artistic ability.

Consider the following lines penned by St. Lucian poet John Robert Lee:1

You, your early gods were rum-soaked banjo-players,
wanderers of hills and towns, story-tellers, gossip-mongers,
to whom you gave your heart up captive, new each time, to each new chord,
to each sweet tongue of flute that whistled you past long canoes,
down lonely tracks, to rivers hiding naked among rocks
and frowning rain forests.

We could make a few observations about this verse. To call the banjo players “gods” is an extension of that word past its normal boundaries. In translation, what would we do with “rum-soaked”? (These people weren’t literally soaked in rum.) In St. Lucia, one might call you, ring you up or honk you, but what does it mean to “whistle you past a canoe”? And in what sense might one say that a rain forest “frowns”?

In translating from one language to another, there are two dangers. First, the translator, not really focusing on the meaning being expressed, perhaps not even understanding it, carries across the words, idioms, metaphors, grammatical constructions, etc., from one language to the other. This would be a literal translation – literally translating the form, that is, but not the meaning. This type of translation is relatively easy and is what one would tend to do if not thoroughly grounded in translation principles, and experienced. The problem, of course, is that the resulting translation is not natural-sounding, and the meaning is not clear.

Another danger, though, is that in an attempt to make a translation natural-sounding and clear in meaning, the translator might reduce the somewhat cryptic, figurative language, to its literal meaning, to the best of his ability. He might, for example, seek to make all information that was implicit explicit, turn all metaphors into similes or abandon them completely, or translate poetry as normal, everyday sentences. This is called over-translation. The result might be clear enough, and using only natural constructions, but at the same time be dull and lifeless.

It has often been said that the goals in translation are that it be clear, accurate, and natural (see, for example, Barnwell 1986, Frank 1998). One might add, though, that a good translation is clear, accurate, natural, and dynamic. That is, the recipients should react to it by saying, “Yes, that is just how we would say it!” In other words, there is natural and then there is natural.

Principle #1: Translate with awareness of both form and meaning and the relative importance of each in a particular source language text, and with understanding of the forms available in the receptor language, using the appropriate genre or verbal art form.

Translating Similes

Getting down to specific types of figurative language, we will look first at the simile. A simile is a figure of speech involving a comparison (Barnwell 1986:144). Not all comparisons involve figurative language, e.g. “I am as tall as you are,” but a simile has a figurative element to it. It is usually described as a comparison of two unlike things using “like” or “as”. Every simile (and metaphor) can be analyzed in terms of these three components: a topic, an image, and a point of similarity (though the terminology used might vary).

Often the three components of a simile are not all explicit. One or more element might be implicit in the text. In creating a text in one language based on a source text in another language, sometimes an implicit component of a simile needs to be made explicit in order for the nature of the comparison to be clear. Consider, for example, the simile “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed…” In the cultural context in which these words were first uttered, about 2000 years ago in the Middle East, the hearers knew that a mustard seed is very tiny. In the St. Lucian context, though, the hearers/readers of the Kwéyòl New Testament translation2 might not know what the significance of a mustard seed is in this comparison,3 and so in translation the point of similarity was made explicit: “Si ou ni lafwa ki piti kon yon piti ti gwenn moutad” (“If you have faith that is small like a tiny little mustard seed” – Luke 17:6). If a component of a simile is left implicit, it is often the point of similarity, as in the above example and in the following from Psalm 22:14: “I am poured out like water” (RSV)4 was translated as “Mwen vini fèb menm kon dlo ki tonbé atè” (“I have become weak just like water that falls to the ground”).

Sometimes, of course, the implicit element is clear enough without being made explicit, as in “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves”, and sometimes all the components of the simile are explicit in the source text as in “so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (all from Matt. 10:16). Other times in translation, inasmuch as we are dealing with figurative language, it is more effective to abandon the imagery, or to change the image to a more familiar one. For example, there is a word for “snow” in Kwéyòl, but the word is, understandably, not too familiar to most people. One should consider, in translation, what sorts of similes are used in the receptor language. How would the concept of “whiteness” be expressed as a simile in Kwéyòl? In Rev. 1:14, which says in English “His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow,” one simile was translated using an idiomatic construction that is not a simile, and the other translated as a simile but with a substituted image: “Pa dé blan chivé nonm sala té blan! I té blan kon koton!” (“Not two whites the hair of that man was white! It was white like cotton!”)

Principle #2: In translating, consider whether the topic, image and/or point of similarity of a simile needs to be made explicit in order to be understood, or whether the image needs to be adjusted or abandoned completely.

If we are dealing with a discourse genre where figurative language is used, since sometimes in translation a simile has to be abandoned because it might not communicate effectively, it is also reasonable to think that sometimes a simile might be introduced where there was not one in the source text. In Luke 24:4, to translate “in dazzling apparel”, we said “had yo té ka kléwé kon zéklè” (“their clothes were shining like lightning”). In II Corinthians 10:10, where it says “his bodily presence is weak,” the translation reads, “i menm fèb kon an mòpyon” (“he himself is weak as a louse”).

Translating Metaphor

A metaphor, like a simile, involves a topic, an image, and a point of similarity, but it does not use “like” or “as” or anything else to make it explicit that a comparison is made. So while a simile might be “You are like a snake,” a corresponding metaphor might be “You are a snake.” Assuming that metaphors are used in the receptor language, it might often to be possible to translate a metaphor literally, so that nothing is made more explicit in the translated text than was in the source text. In Matt. 3:7/Luke 3:7, where John the Baptist says “You brood of vipers!” we were able express this as “Débann sèpan kon zòt yé!” (“Bunch of snakes that you are!”).

There is an old word for “shepherd” (bèwjé) in St. Lucian Creole but it is not commonly known, so we preferred at first to translate “shepherd” as “gadyenn mouton” (“guardian of sheep”). This worked fairly well until we turned to Psalm 23, which begins “The Lord is my shepherd.” There was no way to use the term “gadyenn mouton” without suggesting that the Lord is the guardian of my sheep. Since that is not the idea of this Psalm, but rather the idea is that God is watching over us as a shepherd watches over his sheep, we turned back to the old word for “shepherd” and translated this metaphor literally.

As with similes, in translating into Kwéyòl we sometimes found it necessary to make an implicit component of the comparison explicit. In the process, it was sometimes necessary to make explicit the fact that a comparison is being made, and so a metaphor is translated as a simile in Matt. 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth,” translated as “Ou sé menm kon sèl pou lézòm” (“You are just like salt for mankind”). Similarly, James 3:6 says “The tongue is a fire” but was translated as “Lanng-lan sé menm kon an difé” (“The tongue is just like a fire”). Whereas in the RSV Luke 3:8 says succinctly “Bear fruits that befit repentance,” the translation says more periphrastically, “Menm kon pyé fwitaj ni pou pwodwi bon fwi, zòt osi ni pou fè sé bon bagay-la ki kay moutwé ki zòt ja tounen hòd péché zòt.” (Just as a fruit tree has to produce good fruit, you also have to do the good things that will show that you have already turned from your sins.”)

Eph. 4:14 says, “…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” For the sake of clarity, the metaphors were partly converted to similes: “La nou pa kay kon ti manmay ankò pou lanm lanmè woulé nou toupatou, ében kon moun ki ka kité népòt bagay yo tann chayé yo kon van ka chayé fèy sèk” (“Then we will not be like children again for sea waves to roll us everywhere, or like people who let anything they hear carry them like wind carries dry leaves”).

There are times, as with similes, that the image could profitably be adjusted in translation. The poem “Vocation” (Lee, n.d.) describes a man delivering a sermon with “wrists uplifted, fingers plucking outward.” We have tentatively translated this as “sé ponyèt-la lévé, sé dwèt-la ka sòti dòwò kon lè kwab ka sòti an tou” (“the wrists raised, the fingers going out like a crab coming out of its hole”).

There are times in translating metaphors (and similes) when the image involves a term unfamiliar in the receptor language, and so it has to either be changed or explained. There are no foxes in St. Lucia, nor a word for “fox”, so Luke 13:32, which says, “Go and tell that fox…” was translated as “Alé di sèpan sala…” (“Go tell that snake…”).

Heb. 6:19 says, “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” Though fishing is important in the traditional St. Lucian culture, there is no term for “anchor” familiar to most people, and term available would be easily mistaken for “ink”. So this was translated as “Sa… ka tjenbé lam nou fò, pou anyen pa sa chayé nou, menm kon tjò fè-a batiman-an ka ladjé désann ofon lanmè-a ka tjenbé batiman-an” (“This… holds our souls strong, so nothing can carry us, just like the piece of iron that the boat releases down to the bottom of the sea holds the boat”). Romans 3:13 says, “Their throat is an open grave… The venom of asps is under their lips.” This was translated as “Lè yo ouvè bouch yo pou palé, i menm kon an twou ki ouvè an tè-a pou valé moun… Dèyè lèv yo ni vlen menm kon an danjéwé sèpan” (“When they open their mouths to speak, it is just like a hole that opens in the ground to swallow people… Behind their lips they have venom just like a dangerous snake”).

Luke 20:43 and Acts 2:35 say, “…till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet.” This was translated keeping the metaphorical idea of something under the feet, but abandoning the use of the word “stool”, as follows: “…jis tan mwen mété sé lèlmi'w-lan anba pyé'w” (“…until the time when I put your enemies under your feet”). Also, in Col. 1:18, which says “He is the head of the body, the church,” the figurative language was partly dropped and partly retained intact: “Jézi ka kondwi légliz-la épi légliz-la sé Jézi” (“Jesus rules the church and the church is Jesus’ body”). Similarly, in Acts 2:35

Sometimes a metaphor can convey the wrong meaning when carried across literally to a different language and cultural context. We usually would think of “roots” as representing ancestors, so only the more literal of English Bible translations translate “the root of Jesse” in Romans 15:12 (RSV) as such. In Kwéyòl we said, “An désandan Jèsi kay vini” (“A descendant of Jesse will come”).

There is a sort of mixed metaphor in Acts 7:51 that proved tricky to translate: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears.” In this case, the imagery of circumcision, hearts and ears were all abandoned, while a figure of having a “hard head” was used to translate “stiff-necked”: “Tèt zòt wèd tèlman! Zòt ka fè menm kon sé moun-an ki pa konnèt Bondyé-a.” (“Your heads are so heard! You are doing just like the people who do not know God.”)

Luke 10:11 involves a sort of non-verbal metaphor, called a symbolic gesture. Here Jesus told his disciples that when they leave a town that does not receive them, they are to announce, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off against you.” When we translated this and checked it for comprehension, we asked a naïve language helper why she thought they were to say this. She thought the disciples were putting a curse on the people, the way a practitioner of obeah in St. Lucia might use natural elements to manipulate the supernatural. So we translated this as “Jik lapousyè vil zòt-la ki pwi an pyé nou, nou ka soukwé kont zòt pou moutwé kon sa Bondyé pa plè èk sa zòt ka fè-a” (“Even the dust of your village that sticks to our feet, we are shaking against you to show that God is not pleased with what you are doing”).

Principle #3: Recognize the use of metaphor and consider whether it should be adjusted, translated as a simile or abandoned completely.

The Metaphorical Usage of Single Words

It is normal in any language for a metaphorical extension of a word to “die” and develop into a secondary meaning of that word. In English, the primary sense of the word “run” is used in “The boy ran to catch up”, but extensions of the primary meaning give us such sentences as “The water is running”, “My stocking has a run”, and “He gave a running commentary of the cricket match.” In Neo-Melanesian, “beard” is expressed as “grass belong face”. In Kwéyòl, “benyen” means “to bathe, to take a bath”, but you can say “Plas-la ni tizing tè, mé anba’y benyen kayè” (“The place has a little dirt, but under that is bathed in rocks”).

When we talk about the meanings of words, it is helpful to distinguish between the primary sense, secondary senses, and figurative senses, which can include metaphorical extensions of a primary or secondary sense of a word. When one says that “xxx” in one language means “yyy” in another language, that would be focusing on the primary senses, which is normal. But it is important to remember that words have ranges of meaning, and the entire range of meaning of a word in one language might not match the entire range of meaning of that word in a different language. This brings to mind the story (from Martha Isaac) of the St. Lucian school girl who, in her imperfect English, reported to the teacher that the boy next to her tried to “wake up” her skirt. In Kwéyòl, “lévé” can mean “raise” or “wake up”.

In translating a metaphorical extension of a word, sometimes it works to translate it literally. In the poem “Vocation” (Lee, n.d.), “incensed with love” was translated literally as “pafimé épi lanmou”.5 Often, though, the metaphorical usage has to be adjusted somewhat. In the poem “Lusca” (ibid), “my toes itch for shoes to wear” was translated as “zòtèy mwen anvi an soulyé” (“my toes desire a shoe”).

One solution to the problem of translating metaphorical extensions of words, again, is to change the metaphor to a simile. In II Corinthians 11:8, where Paul says, “I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you.” This was translated as “I té akwèdi mwen té ka vòlè lòt légliz lè mwen aksèpté lajan lanmen yo pou mwen té sa édé zòt” (“It was as though I was stealing from other churches when I accepted money from their hands so that I could help you”).

Other times, the metaphor is dropped and the sentence is translated according to the meaning. Mark 12:38-40 says, “Beware of the scribes,… who devour widows’ houses.” This was translated as “Véyé pou sé titja lwa sé Jwif-la, paski… yo ka pwan lavantay asou sé vèv-la” (“Watch out for the teachers of the law of the Jews, because… they take advantage of the widows”). In the poem “Lusca” (Lee, n.d.), “The earth will not be entered by my hoe, it cannot conceive” was translated as “Hou mwen pa sa sèklé tè-a, i pa kay fè manjé” (“My hoe cannot dig the dirt, it will not produce food”).

We struggled with how to translate the idea of “united” until we remembered the words of a prominent politician on the campaign trail: “Annou manché tjè nou ansanm” (“Let us join/unite our hearts together”). The more familiar use of this word for most people would be “to put a handle (a manch) on something such as an ax.” Recalling also that sometimes it is said that a young couple is walking as though they are “manché” (in English we might say “joined at the hip”), this term became the solution to a set of problems. We used this in Rom. 6:5, “Because if we are already manché with him in his death, clearly we will be manché with him as he is raised from the dead also”. We used it to translate the familiar verse used in weddings from Eph. 5:31, “So a man will leave the house of his father and mother and he will be manché with his wife.” We used this to translate the difficult word “fellowship” in I Corinthians 1:9, saying that “God… has called you to live manché.” And in Eph. 2:16, we translated “reconcile” as “manché these two nations together as one nation.”

Early in the New Testament translation project we faced the problem of translating the phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit”. There were two problems here: “filled” here is used in a metaphorical sense, and we had not figured out yet at this point how to say “Holy Spirit”. We tried translating “filled with the Holy Spirit” by saying “anba pouvwa Lèspwi Sen”, which was supposed to mean “under the power of the Holy Spirit”, but “sen” was not understood to mean “holy” as we had hoped (though it might be understood to mean “saint”). When we tested this phrase with a naïve language helper and asked him what it meant, he said, “He had less power than ‘Lèspwi Sen’, whoever that is.” We ended up adjusting this to say “I té anba kondwit Lèspwi Bondyé” (“He was under the control of God’s Spirit”) and we found that that communicated clearly.

Principle #4: Recognize and deal with the appropriate range of meaning of a single word.

Extended Similes and Metaphors, Parables, Proverbs

The St. Lucian Creole language is rich in proverbs. Some samples include “Si ou wè bab kanmawad ou pwi difé, wouzé sa ou” (“If you see your friend’s beard on fire, sprinkle water on your own”), “Piti hach ka bat gwo bwa” (“A small axe can cut down a big tree”), and “Tout kochon ni Sanmdi yo” (“Every pig has its Saturday”). There is even a speech genre called pawabòl whereby the meaning is veiled; a person seems on the surface to be talking about one thing, but he is really talking about something else, and only an “insider” would be able to understand what is meant, possibly leaving other listeners in the dark, so to speak.6 The fact that the meaning of a live metaphor, a proverb, or a parable is somewhat obscure is what makes it interesting. To translate a text containing metaphors, proverbs and parables into Kwéyòl by making everything implicit explicit would be to result in a translation that is not dynamic, nor faithful to the tone of the original.

Often, a proverb or a parable can be translated literally, so that the meaning may not be explicit but the reader/hearer, familiar with the nature of proverbs and parables, can fill in the semantic gap and figure out what is really being said. The fact that the meaning is expressed in the form of a metaphor, proverb or a parable and the reader/hearer has to do a little work to make sense of it can result in the message being appreciated more and retained better, and make the storytelling event more enjoyable. Metaphors, proverbs, and parables are also useful for drawing out analogies. It is interesting to note that the English word “talent” comes from a Greek word referring to a unit of money. We got this word in English by means of the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30.

The first resort, when translating a proverb or a parable, would be to translate it just the way it is. This approach usually works well in languages where proverbs and parables are already familiar forms of verbal art. Sometimes, to re-tell a parable or a proverb so that the meaning is clarified would be to misrepresent the original text and speech situation. For example when Jesus told his disciples, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod,” the disciples thought Jesus had said this because nobody remembered to bring any bread (Mark 8:15-16). When Jesus told the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4-8), his disciples asked him what it meant (v. 9). Jesus went on to interpret his own parable (Luke 8:11-15). Obviously, in this case, there is no need to make the meaning of the parable explicit in translation.

There are times, though, when the slightest bit of help might be given to steer the reader/hearer in the right direction. Sometimes when Jesus told a parable, the original text says something like “…and he told them this parable.” There are times when the text does not explicitly say that what is about to follow is a parable but it doesn’t hurt to add that information, e.g. Luke 17:37, “Jézi di yo pawabòl sala, ‘Kòbo pa bizwen pyès moun di yo koté ki ni on kò mò’” (“Jesus told them this parable/proverb, 7 ‘Vultures don’t need anyone to tell them where there is a dead body’”).

The whole idea of a parable is that it uses an image of a familiar situation to represent something else. In translation, if the image used is of something unfamiliar to the speakers of the receptor language, it is not advisable to keep the unfamiliar image and laboriously explain what it means. An example would be the parable of the wineskins (Mark 2:22). There is no word for “wineskin” in Kwéyòl, and to translate “wineskin” by using a descriptive phrase (see Larson 1984:155, Barnwell 1986:35-36, Frank 1998) would take the focus away from the point being made and give that focus instead to the cultural differences. Especially since some English translations of the Bible use “bottle” in place of “wineskin”, after some discussion about what people have experienced and what makes sense, we decided to use “boutèy” (“bottle”) in the Kwéyòl translation. On the other hand, we were prepared to say that it is easier for a horse to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:25), but representatives of our audience preferred to retain the word “camel” (“kanmèl”), even though it is something foreign.

We had some difficulty in translating Ephesians 6:13-17, about the “armor of God”, as it involved some unfamiliar images and an unfamiliar form of warfare. The image is supposed to be of a soldier with his breastplate, shield, helmet, sword, etc., but one woman with whom we checked this passage for comprehension seemed to be getting the image of a man with a pot on his head, holding a cooking sheet for protection. (We kept working with the passage after that and we hope we made it more clear!)

There are times when basically the same proverb exists in more than one language. Both English and Kwéyòl have the proverb “A new broom sweeps clean”/“Balyé nèf ka balyé nèt”, but the Kwéyòl proverb goes on to say “…mé balyé vyé konnèt tout kwen” (“…but an old broom knows all the corners”). If one were translating Shakespeare’s “All that glitters is not gold,” one might use the Kwéyòl proverb “Ou wè i jòn, ou kwè i bè” (“You see it is yellow, you think it is butter”). In one case, we were able to substitute a proverb with a Kwéyòl proverb that is almost identical and has the same meaning: in Col. 2:21, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” was rendered as “Pa manjé'y, pa gouté'y, pa touché'y” (“Don’t eat it, don’t taste it, don’t touch it”).

In at least one case, we had to abandon a proverb completely and give the interpretation instead. In Luke 23:31, where it says “For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” we said “Paski si yo ka twété mwen ki inosan kon sa, ki mannyè yo kay twété sé moun-an ki koupab-la!” (“Because if they treat me who am innocent like that, how will they treat the people who are guilty!”)

Principle #5: In translation, retain ambiguity where appropriate, if possible.

Idioms and Euphemisms

An idiom is a phrase that functions as a single semantic unit, not to be taken literally (Beekman and Callow 1974:121). It is important in translation to recognize idioms in the source text and to translate meaningfully. There are times when it will work to translate an idiom literally, but not often; there are times when one has to abandon the idiom and translate according to the meaning; and there are times in translating naturally when one might use an idiom in the translation where there was not one in the source text.

It is very easy for a translator to fail to recognize an idiom in the source text and translate it literally but less than meaningfully. That is where the importance of comprehension checking comes in (see Frank 1998). When we translated Mark 2:23, where it says “as they made their way”, we said “kon sé disip-la té ka pasé” (“as the disciples were passing”). In Mark 9:1, “there are some standing here who will not taste death” was translated as “…pa kay ” (“…will not die”). But in some cases we found we could translated an idiom literally and have it be understood, as in Mark 6:50, where “Take heart” was translated literally as “Pwen tjè.”

We felt like we were making an idiomatic, dynamic translation on those occasions when we found a Kwéyòl idiom to translate something. After all, idioms are used in the source text, and if we have to abandon some because they are not meaningful in the receptor language, it would make sense also to introduce some where appropriate. The term we found to translate “mercy” and “merciful” is “tjè fèb”, literally “weak heart,” as in Luke 1:50, “His mercy is on those who fear him,” translated as “I ni on tjè fèb pou sé moun-an ki ni wèspé pou li” (“He has a weak heart for those people who have respect for him”; the English idiom “soft heart” sort of captures the sense.) Similarly, we used the idiom “djòl fò” (“strong snout”) to translate the abstract noun “boldness” in II Corinthians 10:2. A little later in the same chapter (v. 12), when Paul writes about some people who “commend themselves”, we said “Yo menm ka bat tanbou yo épi yo menm ka dansé” (“They themselves beat their drums and they themselves are dancing”).8

There is a rather difficult idiom in II Corinthians 6:11, which says in the RSV, “Our mouth is open to you.” Some of the other, less literal English translations say here, “We have spoken freely/frankly to you.” We were pleased to find a corresponding idiom in Kwéyòl that communicates the same idea: “Nou pa té mété dlo an bouch nou pou palé bay zòt” (literally, “We did not put water in our mouths to speak to you”).

Some idioms can be nonverbal. In English, we associate one’s nose up in the air with being “uppity, conceited”. In Kwéyòl, that also signifies pride, but a good kind of pride. So in I Corinthians 15:31, where Paul speaks of “my pride in you,” we translated that as saying “Zòt ja lévé né mwen” (“You have raised my nose”). In Psalm 22:7, which says “They make mouths at me, they wag their heads,” that was translated as “Yo ka tousé né yo èk yo ka fè sin anlè mwen” (“They cough their noses (?) and they make signs on me”).9

A euphemism is a figure of speech, whether it be metonymy, a metaphor, or some other kind of idiom, used for the purpose of avoiding talking explicitly about some taboo or unpleasant topic. There are a number of euphemisms in Kwéyòl, as in most languages, to refer to death, sex, and bodily functions. If you want to say “He died” in Kwéyòl, you might say “Basil took him” (“Bazil pwen’y”), “his flame went out” (“i étenn” – said particularly of old people), “he said goodbye” (“i di dédé”), “he tied his package” (“i mawé patjé’y”), or “he removed himself” (“i tiyé kò’y”).10

The use of a euphemism in a translation would be based less on where a euphemism is found in the source text, and more on the rules for propriety in the receptor language. We found that whereas people were not offended to see “harlot” used in the familiar King James Version of the Bible, presumably because that term is not too meaningful to them, they were shocked to hear the Kwéyòl equivalent “djanmèt” used in the translation, as in I Corinthians 6:15. We found we had to use the euphemism “fanm lawi” (“woman of the street”) instead.

Principle #6: Recognize the use of idioms and euphemisms in the source text and do not necessarily expect to translate them literally, but rather use whatever idioms and euphemisms are appropriate to the receptor language, whenever appropriate.

Personification and Apostrophe

Personification and apostrophe are figures of speech whereby something inanimate is referred to as though it were animate. Sometimes it may be possible to translate these literally, if comprehension tests positive, and other times it may be necessary to make adjustments or abandon the figurative language.

In his poem “Report”, about the author’s experience of finding his home had been broken into, Lee (n.d.) describes his feeling of insecurity that developed by saying that “Faith becomes shifty-eyed.” In the translation, the abstract noun “faith” is retained, and also the reference to eyes, but the personification is abandoned: “Lafwa vini asou sa zyé ka wè” (“Faith comes to [be a matter of] what the eye can see”). The same poem has a theme, based a metaphorical comparison drawn out at the end, that death is (like) a thief. It concludes, “In such strange and painful ways are we prepared for each day’s remembrances of death, that damned thief.” The final appositive phrase here translates very well into Kwéyòl (“sakwé vòlè sala” – perhaps the author was thinking in Kwéyòl as he was writing in English)11 and the personification in this case was retained.

Romans 5:17 is an example of personification, which says, “Death reigned,” translated as “Lanmò koumansé kondwi tout moun kon an wa” (“Death began to rule everyone as a king”). A little further down (v. 21), the personification proved to be a little more difficult, and “Sin reigned in death” was translated as “Péché mennen lanmò” (“Sin brought death”). In Luke 7:35, the personification in “Wisdom is justified by all her children” had to be abandoned for the sake of comprehension, and was rendered as “Lavi tout sa ki chwazi pou swiv Bondyé ka moutwé ki Bondyé savan” (“The life of all who choose to follow God shows that God is wise”).

As an example of apostrophe, consider the following familiar passage from I Corinthians 15:55, “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” The apostrophe, whereby something inanimate or abstract is addressed in the second person, in this case was retained. The abstract nouns “victory” and “sting” were problematic, however, and were converted to verbs. To translate this, we imagined how one might taunt someone who had boasted that they would win a competition only to end up losing badly. The translation reads, “Lanmò – ou genyen kouman? Ében, moutwé mwen pouvwa-a ou ni pou pitjé-a.” (“Death – you won of course? Well, show me the power you have to sting.”)12

Principle #7: Recognize the use of personification and apostrophe in the source text and evaluate and test whether they can be translated as such.

Metonymy, Synecdoche, Hyperbole

Metonymy and Synecdoche are figures of speech whereby one thing substitutes for something else, based on some kind of associative relationship between the two. In the case of metonymy, the association is one of temporal, spatial, or logical contiguity. For example, in Matthew 10:34, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword,” “sword” in this context was determined to refer to “division” and that is how it was translated. (See parallel passage in Luke 12:51.) Luke 1:27 refers to “Joseph, of the house of David.” Imagine saying that in Kwéyòl, where the “of” relationship would be denoted by simply putting the nouns adjacent to each other, as in “Joseph house David.” In this case it was more comprehensible to say “Joseph who was a descendent of King David” (“Jozèf ki sété désandan Wa David”). A little further down (v. 32), it says, “The Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David.” Especially in light of the fact that there is no word for “throne” in Kwéyòl, this was translated as “Bondyé Senyè kay ba li kondwit gwanpapa’y, Wa David” (“The Lord God will give him the rule of his grandfather, King David”). Luke 10:4, where Jesus sent out his disciples and told them to “Carry no purse” was translated as “Don’t take money” (“Pa pwan lajan”).13

Synecdoche is a type of figurative language where a substitution is made based on part-whole relationships or class membership. An example from the Lord’s Prayer is “Give us each day our daily bread,” translated literally as “Ban nou pen-an nou bizwen-an chak jou” in Luke 11:3. In this case, “bread” means “food”. Frequently, synecdoche involves a part of a person’s body substituting for the whole person. In Luke 11:27, a woman calls out to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!” Some slight adjustments were made here such that the figure of speech was lost, and this was translated as “Manman sala ki fè’w-la èk ki ba’w tété-a benni” (“That mother who bore you and who nursed you is blessed”). Rom. 3:15 says, “Their feet are swift to shed blood.” To avoid confusion, this was translated as “Yo ka gadé pou tout ti chans yo jwenn pou yo sa tjwé moun” (“They look for every little chance they find to kill people”). Similarly, Acts 5:9 says, “The feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” This too was translated by replacing “feet” with a reference to the whole person: “Sé moun-an ki mennen mawi’w ay téwé-a…” (“The people who brought your husband out to be buried…”).

Hyperbole is another name for exaggeration used as a figure of speech. Hyperbole does not necessarily involve synecdoche, but sometimes it does, as when a whole set or class of something takes the place of a subset, as in John 1:11-12, “He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him,…” translated as “I vini an péyi’y menm, mé sé jan péyi’y-la pa wisivwè’y. Mé adan té wisivwè’y èk kwè an li, kon sa…” (He came to his own country, but the people of his country did not receive him. But some received him, so…”) In this case, “his people” apparently means “most of his people.” Sometimes hyperbole and synecdoche are combined, as when “the whole world” means “most of the people in the world.” John 12:19, which says in the RSV “The world has gone after him,” was translated as “Tout moun ka swiv li” (“All people are following him”). It is interesting to note that the Kwéyòl word “moun”, meaning “person/people”, comes from the French word “monde”; “tout moun” in Kwéyòl, meaning “all people” or “everybody”, comes from French “tout le monde”, which also means “everybody” but is literally “all the world”.

Hyperbole does not necessarily involve nouns, however. Matthew 11:18, which says, “For John came neither eating nor drinking,” was translated as “Lè Jan Batis vini, i té ka wèsté san manjé souvan…” (“When John the Baptist came, he remained without food often…”) Luke 15:24, in which the father of the Prodigal Son says, “For this my son was dead, and is alive again,” was translated as “Paski gason mwen-an akwèdi i té ja mò èk i viwé vivan” (“Because my son was as though he were already dead and he has come back alive”).14

Principle #8: Recognize metonymy, synecdoche and hyperbole and consider whether at times they need to be reduced to a more literal meaning.


Irony is a figure of speech whereby someone says just the opposite of what he means, such as criticism or ridicule in the form of a compliment. It is a bit tricky to translate irony, and to do so one must find out whether this kind of irony naturally exists in the receptor language. For example, might someone belittle someone else by making a complimentary statement that the speaker knows is not true? We determined that speakers of St. Lucian Creole do use irony to some extent, and so we attempted to translate irony as irony, with a few adjustments where testing indicated they were necessary. II Corinthians says, “For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!” This was translated fairly literally, with the irony retained, as “… Pawdonnen mwen pou ditò sala mwen fè zòt-la!” (“… Pardon me for that wrong I did you all!”).

Since without understanding the speaker-hearer relationship properly it would be easy to misinterpret irony, and since irony often is used to parody someone’s beliefs with which the speaker disagrees, there are times we had to translate the ironic statement as a question beginning “Do you think…?” There is an ironic stretch in I Corinthians 4:8-10 where the author, Paul, is scolding the Corinthians, saying, “Already you are filled! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! … We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.” This was translated as “Ès si zòt kwè zòt ja ni tout sa zòt bizwen? Ès si zòt ja wisivwè tout bennédiksyon Lèspwi Bondyé ka bay? Ès si zòt ja vini wa san nou édé zòt? Bon, mwen té kay kontan si zòt té wa pou vwé, kon sa nou té kay kondwi ansanm épi zòt.… Zòt kwè nou fèb mé zòt fò? Zòt kwè nou pa ni pyès lonnè mé zòt ni lonnè?” (“Do you think you already have all you need? Have you already received every blessing God’s Spirit gives? Have you already become kings without us helping you? Well, I would be happy if you were kings for true, so we could rule together with you…. Do you think we are weak but you are strong? Do you think we don’t have any honor but you have honor?”)

Principle #9: Recognize irony and translate it as the equivalent type of speech.

Grammatical Categories

The meaning of grammatical categories is not always straightforward. A statement is sometimes a question and a question is sometimes a statement; past tense sometimes refers to the present, and present tense sometimes refers to the past. A rhetorical question, of course, is a question that is not really a question. That is, it has the form of a question, but the function is not to elicit information. Other studies have gone into the nature and various functions of rhetorical question, e.g. Beekman and Callow 1974 chapter 15, Larson 1984 chapter 22, Barnwell 1986 chapter 27, and Wilner 1986. Here we are focusing on the fact that a rhetorical question is not a normal question, and to translate it one must understand something about the natural use of rhetorical questions in the receptor language, being sensitive and testing to make sure it is understood properly, making adjustments where necessary.

We determined that rhetorical questions are sometimes used in Kwéyòl. For example, a mother might say to a child, “Ki sa ou ka fè la-a?” (“What are you doing there?”), where the intention is not to get an answer but rather to scold, and to make the child think about what he or she is doing. So we were able sometimes to translate a rhetorical question literally as a question, as in Mark 3:23, “How can Satan cast out Satan?” – except that we used an idiom to translate “cast out”: “Ki mannyè Satan sa kouwi dèyè Satan?” (“How can Satan run behind Satan?”).

There are some places in the New Testament where it is obvious that a question is a rhetorical one because the speaker answers his own question, e.g. Luke 7:31-32. There are other places where a rhetorical question is asked and the speaker does not answer his own question, presumably because the answer is supposed to be obvious, but we provided the answer in translation, to help bridge the gap between cultures. So in Luke 5:34, where Jesus asks, “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?” we translated that as a question but then added the implied answer, “Mé non!” (“But no!”).

Other times, a rhetorical question that might be confused for a real question could be translated as a statement. We remember one case where we translated the rhetorical question literally in Luke 11:11-12, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” In testing, we asked the important question, “Why do think Jesus asked these questions?” We had a good, naïve language helper at that time who was completely unfamiliar with the Bible. She said, “There are some parents who are mean to their children and give them bad things. I heard about a man who gave a child rum to drink and the child died.” It turned out she thought the question was being asked to get the people to confess. So we adjusted the translation here to make the first rhetorical question a statement, and the second one a question plus answer: “La pa ni pyès papa anpami zòt ki kay bay gason'y an sèpan si i mandé'y on pwéson. Ében ès ou kay ba li yon èskoupyon si i mandé'w on zé? Mé non!” (“There is not any father among you who will give his son a snake if he asks him for a fish. Or will you give him a scorpion if he asks you for an egg? But no!”)

An abstract noun is a noun that, rather than referring to a person, place, or thing, denotes an event or quality or manner – something that might be normally denoted through another part of speech like a verb, adjective, or adverb. Part of the problem in translation is that such abstract nouns might not exist in the receptor language, and part of the problem is that even if they exist, they might not be the best way to express such ideas.

Often an abstract noun refers to an action or event, and so the way to translate it might be to use the corresponding verb. So in I Corinthians 15:54, “Death is swallowed up in victory” was translated as “Bondyé ja genyen asou lanmò nèt” (“God has gained/won over death completely”). A few verses later (v. 57), “Thanks be to God,” was translated as “Nou wimèsyé Bondyé” (“We thank God”).

Other times, the solution is to use an adjective. Where Paul writes, “We have boldness” in Ephesians 3:12, the translation says simply “Nou bwav” (“We are brave”). In Matt. 23:23, “Woe to you.” was translated using an adjective and an idiomatic construction to add emphasis, “Ki mizi téwib i kay téwib pou zòt” (“How much terrible it will be terrible for you”). Similarly, in Romans 2:5 “wrath” was translated as “mizi faché Bondyé faché” (“how much angry God will be angry”).

We have already discussed above how “fellowship” was translated using the word “manché”, which means, in effect, “join(ed) together”. This is another example of an abstract noun that was difficult at first to translate.15 In II Corinthians 13:14, where it says “The fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all,” this was translated as “Mwen ka pwédyé kon sa… Lèspwi Bondyé kay kontiné manché zòt ansanm épi'y” (“I am praying that… God’s Spirit will continue to join you all together with him”).

There were times when in translation we faced a whole string of abstract nouns and we decided that, since there were no corresponding abstract nouns in Kwéyòl for some of them, the string of abstract nouns would best be replaced with a string of clauses. Romans 8:35 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril?” This was translated as “Kilès bagay ki kay sa tiwé nou an lanmityé-a Jézi ni pou nou-an? Pa menm si nou jwenn twibilasyon, ében si nou ka pwan'y wèd, ében si moun ka pèsikité nou, ében si nou fen, ében si nou pòv, ében si nou an danjé.” (“What thing is there that can remove us from the love Jesus has for us? Not even if we find tribulation, or if we take it hard, or if people are persecuting us, or if we are hungry, or if we are poor, or if we are in danger.”)

It is hard to talk about tense in a way that makes sense to everyone. If asked how many tenses there are in English grammar, some might list present, past, future, perfect, pluperfect, and future perfect. Others might base their answer on form and say, along with Quirk et al., “English has two tenses: present tense and past tense” (Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech and Svartvik 1972:84), explaining that “future tense” is not really a tense because it depends on the use of an auxiliary verb, and the perfects are a matter of aspect rather than tense. Without wishing to cause undue confusion, we would like to say that there are times when what we might loosely call “present tense” refers to something in the past or the future, and what we might loosely call “past tense” refers to something in the present or future, and so forth. For example, Frank 1986 describes how the “opening-as-stage” part of a narrative discourse in Kwéyòl sometimes refers to an ongoing state that was clearly in the past as though it were the present. This off-norm use of verb tense can be used for rhetorical or literary effect.

In Luke 1:52-54, Mary the mother of Jesus, before the birth of her child, says, “He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel.” According to Reiling and Swellengrebel (1972:75),

The Greek aorists in these verses do not refer to something which has happened to Mary in the past (as was the case in vv. 48f), but to things which are bound to happen as a consequence of that which God did to Mary; they are therefore best understood as renderings of the Hebrew prophetic perfect which represents things of the future as already accomplished.

Recognizing that the use of the aorist past tense in these verses was a kind of figure of speech, the form that is normally used in Kwéyòl for present time reference was used to translate them: “I ka tiwé otowizasyon pou kondwi an lanmen wa, mé i ka fè lé pòv enpòtan. I ka bay lé pòv bon bagay mé i ka voyé sa ki wich alé lanmen vid. I ka édé sèvant li, sé jan Izwayèl-la.” (“He is removing authorization to rule from the hands of kings, but he is making the poor important. He is giving the poor good things but he is sending those who are rich away empty-handed. He is helping his servant, the people of Israel.”) The point is that to translate, one has to look not only at what the corresponding grammatical form in the receptor language is for something in the source language, but what the meaning is, and how the translation might be understood, and at the most natural and dynamic way of expressing a certain intended meaning in the receptor language.16

The following quote applies well to the translation of verb tense in particular and to the topic of this paper in general: “In translation the important point is not to aim at wooden literalness of tense, but to achieve the same degree of vividness as the Greek intends, by whatever idiomatic means the language offers. Beware of making a lively narrative stuffy by being too literal. Translate idiom into idiom.” (France 1972:5)

One final translation issue we wish to touch upon has to do with passives. It has been said that there are no “true” passives in Creole languages such as St. Lucian Creole. Indeed there is a kind of passive, but in the kind of passive Kwéyòl uses the agent/actor of the action cannot be named. So one can say “Philip baptized them” and “They were baptized”, but not “They were baptized by Philip.” Actually, it would be possible to say “Yo té batizé pa Filip,” but that would go against the natural patterns of use and would be “bad Kwéyòl”.

It would not be especially problematic to translate any passive into Kwéyòl in which the agent is not named, but where the agent is named using a “by” prepositional phrase, some kind of adjustment has to be made in translation. The most simple way of doing this is to change the passive to an active construction. Consider the following example from Psalm 33:16, “A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.” This was translated as “Sé pa an gwan kantité sòlda ki ka fè an wa genyen ladjè-a. Sé pa an pil kouway ki ka fè an sòlda bat lèlmi'y.” (“It is not a large quantity of soldiers that makes a king win the war. It is not a lot of strength that makes a soldier beat his enemy.”)

Sometimes the passive is not a complete sentence or clause, but just a modifier for a noun phrase. In this case, the same principle applies. Psalm 37:22 says, “For those blessed by the Lord shall possess the land, but those cursed by him shall be cut off.” This was translated as “Sé moun-an Bondyé Senyè-a benni-an kay éwityé tè-a Bondyé té pwonmèt yo-a, mé i kay kouwi dèyè sé sa i modi-a.” (“The people the Lord God blessed will inherit the land God had promised them, but he will run behind those he cursed.”)

Ephesians 2:18 was a problematic case. It reads, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” On the surface, it appears that “grace” is the agent of the action, but on closer analysis one can see that God is the agent, and grace is a characterization of what God has done. This has been translated as “Sé Bondyé ki sové'w pa lagwas li, paski ou mété lafwa'w an Jézi” (“It is God who saved you by his grace, because you put your faith in Jesus”).

Note that the topic of passives is not specific to the translation of poetic and figurative language, but is a general translation issue in connection with Creole languages worth noting.

Principle #10: Translate using the grammatical forms natural to the receptor language.


Several things are needed to translate any discourse, and especially poetic and figurative language, into another language such as St. Lucian Creole. The translator must first of all know what the text means. It is not enough to know the meaning of each individual word in the text, but one must also understand the higher levels of meaning, including the purpose of the text and the parts on different levels that make it up. The translator must be able to make sense of the linguistic and rhetorical structure of the text. He or she should be able to recognize a metaphor, an idiom, irony, a word being used in a secondary or figurative sense, and so forth. The translator must be aware of what linguistic and rhetorical structures naturally exist in the receptor language. It is all too easy to literally translate idioms or grammatical structures in a way that is not natural. Most translators would also benefit from studying the translation techniques used by others in the past. There are certain standard approaches for translating metaphors and similes, rhetorical questions, abstract nouns, and various other types of figurative or difficult language. And any translator would do well to check his results for comprehension and naturalness. Linguists make poor language informants, and if the goal is to produce something that is meaningful and dynamic, it is worth the trouble to actually check to see if that goal has been achieved.

One result we hope that will be obtained from the publication of Tèstèman Nèf-la and studies like the present one and Frank 1998 is that Kwéyòl speakers, and especially public speakers such as preachers and news reporters, will become more clear, effective, and confident using terminology and translation techniques based on careful analysis and testing. We already have testimonial evidence that the translated text communicates to Kwéyòl speakers in a way that was not previously imagined possible. Careful attention to translation techniques can help produce a translation that is clear, accurate, natural, and dynamic.


Barnwell, Katharine. 1986. Bible translation: An introductory course in translation principles. Dallas: SIL.

Beekman, John, and John Callow. 1974. Translating the Word of God. Grand Rapid: Zondervan.

France, R.T. 1972. The Exegesis of Greek Tenses in the New Testament. Notes on translation 46:3-12.

Frank, David B. 1986. The structural organization of St. Lucian French Creole narrative texts. Paper presented at the 6th Biennial Conference of the Society for Caribbean Linguistics in St. Augustine, Trinidad.

                         . 1993. Political, religious, and economic factors affecting language choice in St. Lucia. IJSL 102:39-56.

                        . 1998. Lexical challenges in the St. Lucian Creole Bible translation project. Paper presented at the 12th Biennial Conference of the Society for Caribbean Linguistics in Castries, Saint Lucia.

Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version. 1946 (New Testament), 1952 (Old Testament). Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Larson, Mildred L. 1984. Meaning-based translation: A guide to cross-language equivalence. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

Lee, John Robert. ms. Lusca: Selected poems in English and Kwéyòl.

Quirk, Randolph, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik. 1972. A grammar of contemporary English. London: Longman.

Reiling, J., and J.L. Swellengrebel. 1971. A translator’s handbook on the Gospel of Luke. (Helps for translators series.) London: United Bible Societies.

Tèstèman Nèf-la épi an pòsyon an liv Samz-la. 1999. Bridgetown: Bible Society in the East Caribbean.

Wilner, John. 1986. Rhetorical questions in Sranan Tongo. Paper presented at the 6th Biennial Conference of the Society for Caribbean Linguistics in St. Augustine, Trinidad.


[1] It was a request from Robert Lee that we translate a collection of his poems into Kwéyòl that stimulated the writing of this paper. Both the English poems and the Kwéyòl translations are still in progress and subject to change. The lines quoted here are from a poem entitled “Lusca”.

[2] Most of the examples in this paper are taken from the translation of the New Testament and selected Psalms into St. Lucian Creole, published as Tèstèman Nèf-la épi an Pòsyon an Liv Samz-la (1999). In addition to the authors of the present paper, the translation team included Paul and Cynthia Crosbie, Emmanuel Leon, Mary Tobierre, Wilfred Auguste, Margaret John, and Lynn Frank and checkers and reviewers too numerous to name here. The Crosbies and E. Leon were the primary translators of many of the examples used here for illustrative purposes. The translation project was sponsored by SIL International, Wycliffe Bible Translators, The Seed Company, the Bible Society in the East Caribbean, and the United Bible Societies.

[3] It is best not to assume too much about what would be understood and what would not. Extensive comprehension checking should be used to determine what is understood and what is not; see Frank 1998.

[4] Except for the literal back-translations into English from the Kwéyòl Bible, the quotations from the Bible are all taken from the Revised Standard Version. This is not to suggest that the RSV was used as the source text for the translation, though it was consulted, along with the Greek New Testament and various other English translations, in addition to numerous commentaries and translation aids. Rather, the RSV is used for these illustrations because it is a very literal translation into English of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. It is a good reflection in English of what the original texts literally say.

[5] We have not checked this draft translation of poetry for comprehension to see if it really is understood.

[6] For example, a friend, in saying that he and his wife might be blessed with an unexpected baby, explained that “The other day I was doing some work and discovered that my glove had come off of my hand.”

[7] The boundaries between metaphor, parable, and proverb are often not clear. The emphasis here is what they have in common. A proverb is something that is repeated in a fixed form for a variety of circumstances. A parable is usually longer, perhaps with a plot structure. But note that the term pawabòl is used in Kwéyòl to denote both “parable” and “proverb”.

[8] Here the distinction is a little vague between an idiom and a proverb. This particular idiom reminds me of how we might say in English, “John is a great guy; he told me so himself” or “He is a legend in his own mind.”

[9] It is okay to substitute a more culturally-appropriate “nonverbal idiom” in translation in the context of poetic, figurative or didactic language, but in other contexts, if the text says a person did one thing, the translator should not say that he did something else. See Beekman and Callow 1974, chapter 2.

[10] Thanks to Paul Crosbie and Emmanuel Leon for providing most of these examples, in the course of compiling a Kwéyòl dictionary that we are all working on together (in preparation).

[11] This reminds us of the story told by a St. Lucian friend living in the U.S., who, upon having her purse snatched on a crowded New York sidewalk, found herself shouting “Vòlè!”

[12] Note that this is a good example of irony as well, which is discussed below.

[13] Here are some more examples of metonymy and how it was translated into Kwéyòl: a) “For I will give you a mouth and wisdom” in Luke 21:15 was translated as “Paski lè lè-a wivé mwen kay di zòt sa pou zòt di èk fè” (“Because when the time arrives I will tell you what to say and do”); b) “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup” in I Corinthians 11:26 was translated as “Népòt lè ou manjé pen sala épi ou bwè diven sala” (“any time you eat this bread and you drink this wine”); c) “Let the marriage bed be undefiled” in Heb. 13:4  was translated as “Sé pa pou madanm èk misyé fè adiltè” (“A woman and man must not do adultery”).

[14] See also Matthew 25:9, “But from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” This was translated as “Mé moun-an ki pa byen sèvi ti tak bagay-la i ni-an, jis ti tak-la i ni-an, Bondyé kay pwan an lanmen’y” (“But the person who does not use well the little bit that he has, even the little bit he has, God will take it from his hand”).

[15] See the example in Frank 1998 of the preacher who prayed, “Nou ka wimèsyé’w pou fellowship sala” (“We thank you for this fellowship”).

[16] This reminds us of the time a shop clerk described a certain eraser by saying, “It is erasing very well.” That is a perfectly acceptable English sentence, but in saying this rather than “It erases very well,” she was showing a Kwéyòl influence on her English.