The big picture (continue)
In my last newsletter I wrote about people who use more than a single language in their everyday communication depending on the occasion. This is the case in many parts of the world. In some places people talk different languages, but they understand each other. Most Slovaks understand the Czech language and vice versa. They might even be able to talk the language of the other party, despite never learning it (it does not mean that the quality reaches the stars).
Let's imagine a situation of 5 people: Alice, Bob, Carol, David and Zoë (initials A, B, C, D, Z). Everyone speaks a different language. Alice and Bob, Bob and Carol and Carol and David understand each other almost perfectly. However Alice and Carol have a sense of a slight language barrier and so do Bob and David. Alice does not understand David at all and vice versa. Zoë understands every language to a certain extent, Zoë's an eavesdropper and no one understands her language.
And now let me ask a couple of questions:
- How many languages do these people talk in total?
- Are those different accents, dialects or languages?
- If we are to translate the Bible, should we make a translation for each of the languages or should we translate only some of them and leave the others to use what's available?
- Do Alice or David speak only a different accent? (It might be likened to the different forms of English throughout the world or even within a single country) If it is only a different accent, shouldn't we use a single writing system for both?
- If people from David's language community don't like Carol's people, would they use the Bible in the language/accent of the other community?
- If we decide to translate the Bible to each of the languages, could the translators cooperate? Therefore the translations could proceed much faster. They can help each other and if there are issues in one of the translations, it is likely, that there would be similar issues in the others as well.
I'd love to answer these questions simply, but each of these questions is very specific and while in one case we answer it one way, in another one a different answer might be more appropriate.