Prision Diary: Bilingual Bible

The unit was still on lockdown this week. That's three weeks in a row. That's typical, so I hope we can be out there next week.

In the meantime, let me talk about Spanish.

About 30-40% of the men in our study are Hispanic. And many of them struggle with English. Thankfully, you can understand more of a language than you can produce. So the Hispanic men generally track with my classes.

But I've always wanted to connect more with them in Spanish. If I had just one wish I wouldn't ask for a million dollars, I'd make myself bilingual.

Since starting the Bible study at the prison I've tried to teach myself Spanish. Rosetta Stone. Duolingo. It hasn't stuck. I've discovered that I'm really bad at languages. I learned that last summer in Brazil.

But I keep wanting show honor to the Spanish speakers in my Bible class. So here's my latest plan.

I've purchased a bilingual Bible, the New Living Translation parallel with the Nueva Traducción Viviente (NTV). The NTV is the Spanish version of the NLT, the translation I use out at the prison.

My plan is that, during the study, when I'm reading a text, I'll switch over from time to time to the Spanish. Especially for passages with some special theological weight: 
Pues Dios amó tanto al mundo que dio a su único Hijo, para que todo el que crea en él no se pierda, sino que tenga vida eterna.
For gringos like myself, that's John 3:16.

I hope to accomplish three things with this bilingual Bible:

1. Simple honoring. I'm not learning the language very well, but this allows me to insert Spanish into the class.

2. Built in Spanish lessons! As I read, I'm going to make mistakes. The men will correct me. When they do I'll be weaving Spanish lessons into the study. It'll help that I'm not just listening to the word. With the Bible I'll be able to look at the words as the men help me pronounce. I think I'm a language learner that needs to look at the words. I have a bad ear for language.

I also hope that, over time, with a Bible I'll build up my religious vocabulary. Rosetta Stone and Duolingo start you off with words like "bread, "blue," "car" and "shirt." I need a religious vocabulary to use in the study.

3. Flipping the power relations. Liberation theology 101, baby! Related to #2 above, in making mistakes and having the men teach me we're switching social locations, making them the teacher and me the student.

We'll see how it goes. Lift a prayer that the lockdown ends soon.

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