The island of Guam is the largest island of the Ladrone Archipelago. It was one of the islands ceded by Spain to the United States ten years ago. It is a convenient harbor, and is used as a United States naval station.
There are in the neighborhood of 10,000 people upon this island, descendants of the aboriginal Chamorro and of Tagals and Spaniards from the Philippine Islands.
More than two-thirds of the entire population is resident in Agaña, the capital. Chamorro is the native language; Spanish is spoken, and the use of English is increasing. The Protestant missionary work on the island is under the care of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
In response to the request of the Rev. Francis M. Price, one of the missionaries of the American Board, the American Bible Society has just completed an edition of his translation of the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles, and the Psalms, into the language of the people. An edition of these books has been bound up together with the English translation of the same portions. Those who are acquainted with the old original dialect of the island, and those who are learning English, can both be ministered to by this new addition to our list of missionary volumes.
The translations were made from the Westcott-Hort Greek Testament. The printing has been going forward at the Bible House during the presence of Mr. Price in the United States, and the proofs have been carefully revised by him, so that we have every reason to believe that this new edition of the Scriptures is very satisfactory.
A word or two as to the method of translation from one of Mr. Price's letters will no doubt be interesting.
Mr. Price writes:
I have kept up my Greek ever since I left college, and in recent years I have read in the Greek Testament almost every day when at home. When I went to the islands in 1894, knowing that I would probably translate the Old Testament into the Ruk language, I secured Dr. Harper's instruction books in Hebrew and went over the entire course after reaching my field, which required about two year's time. This gave me a working knowledge of the Hebrew.
As to how I made the translation: In China it was customary for the translator to dictate to a Chinese teacher, who did the writing. When I prepared a catechism on the Life of Christ in the Chinese I was unable to speak on account of throat trouble, and so I wrote my translations in Romanized form, which Mrs. Price pronounced to the teacher
while he wrote it down in Chinese. I think in China it was the usual custom to make much use of the native teacher in making translations.
In Ruk I revised Genesis and Exodus, translated Leviticus, Ruth, Esther, and nearly all the Psalms, all of which were published by you seven years ago, and began a revision of the New Testament. In Ruk it was very difficult to get help from natives. One had to do nearly all the work oneself.
In Guam I found the conditions much more favorable. Some of our Protestant people were very well educated in their own language. As to my own knowledge of their language, I think I spoke the language fairly well. I acquire languages perhaps a little more readily than some others. The best teacher I had in Guam was accustomed to say to me You know more about the Chamorro language than I do, which was true and not true. It was not true that I knew more of the peculiar forms of expression in which all languages abound, and with which all natives are very familiar; but it is true that I had a larger vocabulary than he had, and a profounder knowledge of the grammar and structure of the language.
In making my translations at first, I had the teacher translate from the Spanish into the Chamorro as I wrote it down; but finding this very slow and burdensome, and having received into my training school several pupils who were mature and who understood Spanish, I had them write out independent translations, and taking these I compiled from them a translation to suit my own ideas of the language. By this means I got their forms of expression and was able to secure a correct translation of the Greek text. Later I took the very best translators that I had and gave them special portions of the Scriptures to translate, and taking these I revised them, comparing them with the Greek, and had copies made of them on the typewriter. I am now going over these copies, comparing them carefully with the Greek text and putting them in the best shape possible. As there are Catholic priests, both Spanish and native, in Guam,
who will do all they can to destroy the influence of the portions of Scripture that we shall publish, I am especially desirous that this translation may be as perfect as possible.
We take pleasure in accompanying this sketch with some illustrations of the scenery and the people of Guam, and the misisonary work going forward there.
ONE OF THE BETTER HOUSES, GUAM
ON THE CHURCH STEPS
REV. FRANCIS M. PRICE AND CHAMORRO ISLANDERS,
Who Aided in the Translation of the Chamorro Scriptures
STREET IN AGANA, GUAM
VILLAGE ON SHORE, GUAM
Note 1: Source of letter excerpt quoted in this article: Francis Marion Price to Dr. Judson Smith, Letter dated May 9, 1905, Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, Micronesia Mission, 1900-1909. For additional information, see sections "Francis Marion Price (1850-1937)" and "Chamorro Bible Project Story, Sources, and Resources" at http://ChamorroBible.org .
Note 2: Unfortunately, as of September 2003 the identities of the three Guam Senoritas and the five Chamorro Islanders Who Aided in the Translation of the Scriptures are unknown.
Note 3: This original 1908 Chamorro Bible is a surprise and recent discovery. See ISLES, Spring 2003, Special Issue: The Resurrection of the (1908) Chamorro Bible. Edited by Bethany S. Martin, Guam-Micronesia Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, Hagåtña, Guam, USA, 2003. Available at http://ChamorroBible.org, the Guam-Micronesia Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, and the Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center, http://marc.uog.edu, Unibetsedåt Guahan (University of Guam), Mangilao, Guam, USA.
Note 4: Ruk: Chuuk, Chuukese, Truk, Trukese