American Bible Society Archives
ABS History
Essay #16, Part V-H, Text and Translation, 1901-1930
1. Languages of the Pacific Islands, 2. Languages of the Philippines
Eric M. North
September 1967

Published with the permission of the American Bible Society (ABS), New York, New York, USA.
Image of theTitle Page/Table of Contents, Page 12, Page 13, Page 14, and Page 15

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5. Chamorro
(Spoken on Guam)

Early in 1905 (V 1.28.05) Rev. Francis M. Price, a missionary of the ABCFM inquired (CC 1.6.05) if the ABS would print his translation in Japan. The committee asked further correspondence as finances were then pressing. So again (V 7.1.05) after letters from Mr. Price (CC 9.1.05) and Secretary Loomis in Japan (8.9.05) the Committee (9.30.05) recommended print-

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ing 1,000 Gospels and Psalms in Japan at not over $225. including Mr. Price's expense in Japan seeing them through the press. (Confirmed by Managers 10.5.05) (See also Price 1.18.05; 5.9.05 in Permanent File)

Concerning his method of translating, Mr. Price wrote from California (5.9.05):

"...I desire to say that 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 years time. This gave me a working knowledge of the Hebrew.
As to how I made the translations: In China it was customary for he translator to dictate to a Chinese teacher, who did the writing. When I prepared a catechism on the Life of Christ in Chinese, I was unable to speak on account of throat trouble, and so I wrote out 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 five years ago, and began a revision of the New Testament. There [in Ruk] it was very difficult to get help from the 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 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 ver [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
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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 scripture to translate and taking these I revised them comparing 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 that 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. In order to secure this end I propose to return to Guam go over the translations again with the very best native help I can obtain and there put them in their final form. So much for the translations."

After returning to Guam: he wrote further (10.11.08)

"...pleasant voyage and a warm reception on the part of our people here I have settled down to my work of translating and revision. I find the people delighted with the prospect of soon having the Gospels in their native tongue in which they were born and they have offered me all the help I need in doing the work. I now write for a special reason:
It has been urged by the natives that the testament - or parts - which we publish shall be printed in English and Chamorro, in parallel columns. They say that it will secure ten times as many readers as in Chamorro alone and I am sure they are right. The people are all eager to learn English and the public schools are making English the basis for all their instruction. Of course the older people cannot read English and the younger people will not understand it well for some years but with the English and Chamorro side by side they will get much that they cannot get otherwise and the book will have an interest and dignity in their eyes that it could not otherwise have. With the priests dead against the reading of the Bible at all, it needs every advantage that we can give it. The Governor of the island was interested when I told him about it and offered to excuse one of his teachers for three months that she might aid in the work of preparing it.
Now I want to ask the Committee to have it so printed-in English and Chamorro. And in order to aid in securing this desirable end I offer to raise one half the money needed to meet the extra expense."

This was investigated and it was found that the Chamorro ran so nearly page for page with the English that it became practicable and the

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Volume was printed by the ABS under date of 1908 to the number of about 1,000.

Note 1: Ruk: Chuuk, Chuukese, Truk, Trukese

Note 2: ABCFM: American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

Note 3: Date format is (Month.Day.Year).

The Chamorro Bible In Print

Photograph accompanying Manguaguan na Palabran Si Yuus - God's Precious WordsManguaguan na Palabran Si Yuus – God's Precious Words
With the Photograph of the Day

The Great Earthquake and Catastrophic Tsunami of 2004
The Spectacular Clouds of the Transonic Flight Regime  ·  Francis Marion Price (1850-1937)  ·  The 1908 Chamorro Bible in Audio  ·  Chamorro Language Resources  ·  Acknowledgements  ·  ISLES, Spring 2003, Special Issue: The Resurrection of the (1908) Chamorro Bible  ·  Chamorro Bible Project  ·  Announcements  ·  Download