Though it took four years of research and cost US$350,000, “Di Jameikan Nyuu Testiment” is the first translation of its kind into the English dialect of Jamaican patois. The vast costs involved for research and translation have resulted in some misguided criticism of the project on the poverty stricken island even though the money was actually raised abroad. In a statement to the Jamaican Observer, Reverend Courtney Stewart defended the translation.
“Some persons have said that this is money we really are wasting and we could have used it to fix roads and for the school-feeding programme, and for hospitals and that kind of thing. The truth of the matter is that none of that money that we were able to pull could have been used to fix roads, fix hospitals, provide drugs and feed kids. That was money that was provided exclusively for translation,” he explained.
The donors included the American Bible Society, Wycliffe Group of Companies, British and Foreign Bible Society, and Spring Harvest.
The ambitious undertaking was intended to provide the ancient scriptures to Jamaican Christians in their Mother Tongue, which though a variant of the English language, is sufficiently different from the standard English from which it is derived, to warrant a new publication. This new translation includes the King James Version along the edge of each page for comparison with the Patois, as well as information in both languages on relevant topics.
The New Testament is very large and correct translation of its meaning is vital in this religious context, making this a mammoth undertaking as Bertram Gayle, a linguist who worked on the project reveals, “It took six weeks for recording — nine hours per day, six days per week,” he said, adding that editing took “another couple weeks”.
This was not the first patois translation that the the Bible Society has produced, others include A who run tings?, excerpts of Scriptures focusing on the sovereignty of God (audio cassette, 1996), Di Crismus Story (CD, 2003) and Jiizas: di Book weh Luuk rait bout him (print and audio, 2010).