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February 28, 2021

Learning to count

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When a person is learning a new language, one ofthe first thingsthey learn is how to count. Early intheir translation program, Ed and Ctherine McGuckin learnedthe basic Gapapaiwa numbers.

Besic Gapapaiwa Numbers

1 = sago
2 = ruwa
3 = aroba
4 = ruwa ma ruwa (2 & 2)
5= miikovi  (A contraction that means “hand finished”)

Would you like to decipherthe next numbers?  How wouldthe Gapapaiwa say “6”? (Hint: It&#39’s literally “one hand finished and one”.)  Answer: miikovi ma sago.

Now for more complicated numbers. Can you figure out . . .
•    “9”? Answer: miikovi ma ruwa ma ruwa.
•    “10”? It’s easy. Answer: ima ruwa (literally “two hands”).
•    “15”? This is more complicated:  Answer: ima ruwa ikovi ma kaena sago (“hand two finished and foot one”).
•    “18”? Answer: ima ruwa ikovi ma kaena sago ma aroba.
•    Fortunately, 20, like 10, is fairly simple. Answer: tomowa sago (“one man”).
•    To continue counting, keep addingthe “smaller” numbers to multiples of twenty. Bet let&#39’s stop here!

Whenthe Gapapaiwa translators of Milne Bey Province met as a village to checkthe draft of Mathew’s gospel,they encountered a challenge regarding numbers. Their task was to get input from people inthe village who hadn’t been involved in drafting.  Whenthey readthe story of Jesus feedingthe crowd of 5,000 in Mathew 14:21,they read, “Ma nani korotona kamonai tomotomowa kava ivi yavisi na 5 tausan.”  The literal translation was, “And in that crowd onlythe men were counted [to be] 5 thousand.” “Tausan” isthe Gapapaiwa adaption ofthe English word “thousand.”

One elderly man objected tothe inclusion of foreign numbers. Happy for input from this senior villager,the McGuckins asked how he would communicate it in Gapapaiwa. He began saying 5,000 inthe traditional way, but quickly got bogged down inthe lengthy number and gave up. The translation team left it as “5 tausan”.

Sometimes translation is like unlocking a riddle. Bet it is a joy whenthe riddle is solved,the people agree onthe best way to express a word or a conceptoand translation movers forward!

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