What makes a great story?

Workshop 3 course participants and staff

Workshop 3 course participants and staff

The current Oral Bible Storytelling Workshop finished Friday, September 12, and all the participants have returned to their communities. We trust they will find multiple ways to share the stories.

As they begin to tell the stories, part of the process involves getting community feedback. Picture in your mind how you would translate the words angel, temple, prophet, or shepherd. What if you had no point of reference to start with to make some of those connections. Sheep are not native to Papua New Guinea and very few people have ever seen a sheep, so talking about the shepherd and his tireless work in caring for his sheep does not communicate well. As a community, they need to sit and discuss what they have in their culture that will convey the same message.

Greg shares about the terrified shepherds.

Greg shares about the terrified shepherds.

The trade language, Tok Pisin, contains only three or four thousand words. So, in addition to the concepts that they have not heard of in their culture, Tok Pisin can make it difficult to express deep concepts or biblical principles. It proves challenging as the participants take a less specific language and make it clear in their own tok ples (heart language). How can the participants make the story krai gut (cry good –sound natural)? There is one word for fear in Tok Pisin. In Luke 1 and 2, there are multiple expressions for fear in the English translation – gripped with fear, afraid, awe, terrified. Which one will be the clearest in the tok ples? This necessitates more discussions about the circumstances surrounding the word so that the translation communicates clearly.

Translating a story so that it speaks clearly is a challenge on many levels. It involves not only the correct words, but expression and body language. We have seen significant growth in many participants as they begin to engage with their audience. What a joy to see storytellers blossom!

Photos by Gary Abbas

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