I’m currently preparing to teach a class to our Roma Bible translators on the topic of “sociolinguistics”. What is sociolinguistics? I’m so glad you asked!
One simple definition is “sociolinguistics is that part of linguistics which is concerned with language as a social and cultural phenomenon.” Practically speaking, it is a study of how we use language differently depending on the situation we are in, the people we are with, and the culture within which we are interacting.
For example, if I’m talking about cars, I will speak differently depending on whether I’m talking to my 6 year-old nephew, my wife, my brother-in-law, or my auto mechanic. Not only their ability to discuss intelligently affects how I talk to them, but the purpose: Am I asking my nephew his favorite color of Hot Wheels, or am I asking my mechanic if he can replace the C/V boots?
One of the ways this shows up is in the use of slang or jargon. We usually don’t think of slang or jargon being used in the Bible, but there are some places where they show up.
In Acts 17:18, the Epicureans and Stoics made fun of Paul, calling him a “seed picker”. This slang was quite derogatory and used the metaphor of a bird picking up seed. It means either a good-for-nothing, unemployed parasite of a person who lived off scraps he found on the ground in the open market, or else an amateur philosopher who picked up scraps of learning here and there and passed them on without really understanding them. Our English translations say “idle babbler” (NASB), “ignorant show-off” (GNB, CSB), “pseudo-intellectual” (HCSB), “babbling fool” (GW), “foolish babbler” (NET), “babbler” (NIV), “seed picker” (YLT) or “[What is this] babbler [trying to say with these strange ideas he’s picked up]” (NLT).
Another example of slang is in Matthew 22:34 where it says that Jesus “muzzled” the Saducees with his answer. Jesus used this same term to tell the demons in Mark 1:25 and 4:39 to be quiet (“tie up your mouth!”).
There are also instances of jargon in the Bible: the military term for “spearmen” in Acts 23:23, the nautical term for a “Nor’easter” storm wind in Acts 27:14 and “lee” (the side of an island protected from the wind) in Acts 27:7.
As I and the translators learn more about how to apply sociolinguistics to these Roma translations, we ask you to pray for much wisdom to strike a correct balance when trying to render slang and jargon where appropriate in the Bible.
Here are some more pray requests:
- My mom, Geri Price (pictured below), has COVID, so is in an isolation ward in her nursing home. I was planning to visit her this coming weekend but now I won’t be able to. Pray she will not feel abandoned and lonely and that she can enjoy some good sermons and reading.
- This Saturday the Pioneers team and a Croatian Baptist church will be handing out the Gospel of Luke and the book of 50 Bible stories in a large Ludari village in Croatia, where they and we have done years of outreach. Please pray for open hearts to receive, read, listen to and obey God’s Word in this new translation for the Ludari Roma.
- Pray for Todd as he continues to prepare the course on sociolinguistics to the Roma translators and that they will find it very helpful when he teaches it in Slovakia next month.
- Pray for daily wisdom as Todd and the translators edit the drafts in 3 Roma languages (currently focusing on Matthew chapters 18-21) and meet over Zoom to make edits and corrections.
- Praise God for recent safe travels and warm welcomes at our supporting churches in Whitney, TX (Cedar Creek Baptist Church), Douds, IA (Zion Bible Church) and Walker, IA (Walker Bible Church).
- Praise God for Matthew’s new job at Equifax in Atlanta, GA (pictured below).
- Praise God for the wonderful 11th birthday celebration for Ariela (pictures below with Elizabeth, with Timothy, at her party, and at the beach)
Thank you so much for praying for us!
Todd & Pamala