In the autumn of 2016, following a couple of years of preparations, started a project to translate the Old Testament to Lule Sami language. The New Testament was published in 2003, one hundred years after the first translation of the New Testament to Lule Sami.
The Old Testament has never been translated to Lule Sami. Among the Sami languages it’s only Northern Sami that has a complete Bible. Lule Sami is the second most spoken Sami language in Norway and Sweden.
Lule Sami is spoken daily in the valley of Lule river, the neighbourhoods of Jokkmokk, Gällivare and Tysfjord in the region of Sør-Hålogaland. For this reason, the Norwegian and Swedish Bible Societies launched the translation project of the Old Testament.
Lule Sami translation work
Translators from both Norway and Sweden have been engaged in the project. Both younger and older translators are involved. Experts with special linguistic skills are also available. There’s a committee of three editors with a linguistic responsibility to safeguard the quality of the Lule Sami translation. The chairman of this group is Ánn Risstin Skoglund, responsible for education in Lule Sami at the university of Umeå. Professor Emeritus Olavi Korhonen is also on the committee. He led the linguistic work on the translation of the New Testament. The third member is the experienced translator and linguist Kåre Tjihkkom.
Next to the committee are Karin Tuolja and Britt Inger Sikku as translators. Valborg Mangs Märak will work on the back translation to Swedish. This is necessary because no one speaking Lule Sami has the necessary knowledge in Hebrew. The textual accuracy will be reviewed against the Hebrew. Hebraist and consultant on exegesis is Josef Forsling from the Stockholm School of Theology. He will review along with Directors of translation Mikael Winninge (Swedish Bible Society) and Seppo Sipilä (United Bible Societies).
The translators work individually with their assigned texts and present a first draft. Four times per year the translation team meet to discuss the translation. The committee determines what needs to be done and the translators can work on a second draft. The translation process goes through five levels. For each level the text has to go through several steps. At the fourth level a test translation is published for a group of references. The editing committee are involved in each step of the translation.
The first translation seminar was held in Luleå December 2016. Apart from translation work a lecture in the theory and practice of translation was given. In January there was a training in Paratext. This is a landmark in the Swedish Bible Society as it is the first time this translation software is used in Sweden. Paratext will be vital for future translation work in Sweden.
Through Paratext the translators have access to over 1,000 Bible translations and it helps in understanding the meaning of the Greek and the Hebrew text. There are also dictionaries and grammar books, the possibility to create dictionaries, notes, references and tools to edit the translation. Everyone in the team can comment on the translations. You can see the same text in real time no matter where you are located. Since the team are spread out this opens up for new possibilities.
Why is it important to make a Lule Sami Bible translation? It’s our obligation to preserve the language of the native Sami people. Another reason of great importance: Those who first had the Bible in their second or third language can testify to the difference of reading it in your native language. Imagine you couldn’t use your native language in a close relation. You might be limited in expressing yourself. Translating the Bible is about making it available in the heart language. This is our calling.
The owners of the project are the Norwegian Bible Society, the Swedish Bible Society, Diocese of Luleå (Church of Sweden), Diocese of Sør-Hålogaland (Church of Norway), the Sami church council in the Church of Norway and the Church of Sweden.
by Mikael Winninge, Director of Translation, Swedish Bible Society