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The Impact of Language on the Brain, Creating New Neuronal Connections and Bible Study

By Kimberly Burnham

One reason to study the Bible, or anything, is to see your surroundings and your relationship to the people, animals, and environment around you in a new way, a better, more useful way, a way in which you are happier, more successful, and safe.

Our brain loves novelty, making new connections, and learning. Understanding the world around us makes us more appreciative of the beauty, gives us a sense of well-being and security.

Research from second language learning indicates that when we learn a new language, even a few words, we make new connections in our brain. This facilitates knowledge and our ability to travel more widely but it also helps with healing and invigorating the brain.

There is an idea among people who only speak one language that different languages are simply different words for the same thing. Anyone who speaks two or three or more languages know that this is not true. We translate words as if they mean the same thing, but a deeper investigation shows that a particular word in different languages has nuanced differences, and often creates a different feeling in the listener when spoken or read.

Here is a look at a Bible passage, Galatians 5:22-23 translated into Indonesian, a language of Indonesia in Southern Asia. Notice the words are not even the same in these two English translations.

EnglishNew International Bible:

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

English―King James Bible:

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Indonesian (ayt, ind), Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesia)—Terjemahan Lama (TL)

Galatians (Galatia) 5:22 Tetapi buah-buahan Roh, ialah kasih (love), sukacita (joy), perdamaian (peace), panjang hati (panjang (long, length), heart), kemurahan, kebaikan, setiawan (loyal, loyalist, stalwart, fast, truehearted), 23 lemah lembut (lemah (weak, feeble, frail, break, fail), lembut (soft, gentle, delicate, tender, frail), tahan nafsu (tahan (restrain, endure, confine, detain, durable), nafsu (vice, lust, frailty, zeal, lustfulness) Maka tiada ada hukum yang melarangkan yang demikian.

Detaining Vice

In Indonesian tahan nafsu is translated self-control
but the meaning may be much richer
“tahan” is to restrain
endure, confine, detain, durable
“nafsu” is vice
lust, frailty, zeal, lustfulness
it can be literally translated into
restrain vice
confine lust
detain lustfulness
endure frailty
or make zeal durable
is zeal related to lust
is it going too far
how is frailty in the mix
does frailty preclude self-control
or is understanding our frailty a part of self-control?

Indonesian (ayt, ind), Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesia)—Alkitab Terjemahan Baru (TB) 2018: Galatian (Galatia) 5:22 Tetapi buah Roh ialah: kasih (love), sukacita (joy), damai sejahtera (peace), kesabaran, kemurahan, kebaikan, kesetiaan, 23 kelemahlembutan, penguasaan diri. Tidak ada hukum yang menentang hal-hal itu.

Are Kindness and Mercy the Same?

Love - Kasih (love, enjoy, warmheartedness, philia, passion)
Joy - Sukacita (joy, gay, merry, festal, jolly, regimentation, feeling happy appreciation),
Peace- Damai Sejahtera
  Damai (quiet, make up, settle, smooth, peace)
  Sejahtera (prosperous)
Forbearance - Kesabaran (forbearance, longanimity, control, fortitude, resignation)
Kindness - Kemurahan (mercy)
Goodness - Kebaikan (improvement, good, kindness, benefit, virtue)
Faithfulness - Kesetiaan (loyalty, devotion, faithfulness, fidelity, devotedness)
Gentleness - Kelemahlembutan (gentleness)
Self-Control - Ppenguasaan diri
  Penguasaan (mastery, control, supremacy, dominance, ascendency)
  Diri (establish, found, stand up, ground, personal)

Indonesian (ayt), Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesia)—Alkitab dalam Bahasa Indonesia Masa Kini (BIMK):

Galatian (Galatia) 5:22 Sebaliknya, kalau orang-orang dipimpin oleh Roh Allah, hasilnya ialah: Mereka saling mengasihi, mereka gembira, mereka mempunyai ketenangan hati, mereka sabar dan berbudi, mereka baik terhadap orang lain, mereka setia, 23 mereka rendah hati, dan selalu sanggup menguasai diri. Tidak ada hukum agama yang melarang hal-hal seperti itu.

Planning for Love, Joy and Peace

Strung between the words I thought
"mereka" would mean "and" in Indonesian
but found it means
plan, concoct, devise, contrive, cook up
as in planning for love
concocting joy
devising peace
contriving patience
and cooking up good
Love - mereka saling mengasihi
"Mereka (plan, concoct, devise, contrive, cook up)
"Saling" (reciprocally, mutual, inversely, common, mutually),
Mengasihi (love, adore, enjoy)
Joy - mereka gembira
"Mereka (plan, concoct, devise, contrive, cook up)
"Gembira" (joy, glad, boisterous, elated, debonair)
Peace- mereka mempunyai ketenangan hati
"Mempunyai" (have, hold, get, bear, carry),
"Ketenangan" (peace, calmness, ease, tranquility)
"Hati" (heart, center, heart and soul, mettle, liver)
Patience - mereka sabar dan berbudi
"Sabar" (tolerate, tame, tolerant, patient, meek)
"Dan" (and, with)
"Berbudi" (kindness)
Goodness - mereka baik terhadap orang lain
"Baik" (good, well, kind, undecomposed, serious)
"Terhadap" (all around or on all sides)
"Orang" (be, folk, man, dude, person)
"Lain" (different, other, dissimilar, alternative, unlike)
Faithfulness - mereka setia
"Setia" (loyal, faithful, trusty, stalwart, commit)
Meekness - mereka rendah hati
"Rendah" (low, small, little, lowly, primary)
"Hati" (heart, center, heart and soul, mettle, liver)
Self-Control - selalu sanggup menguasai diri
"Selalu" (regularly, frequent, always, flock, oft)
"Sanggup" (mettlesome, spunky, willing, gamy, gamey)
"Menguasai" (control, master, overcome, subject, dominate)
"Diri" (establish, found, stand up, ground, personal)

Have you gained a new sense of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? How do the words land on your brain and heart when translated from another language? Can you imagine how these words sound to native speakers of Indonesian. Do they think about the mutual affection embedded in love or is it simply “saling mengasihi?”

“The Power of Words” is the topic of Saturday’s Coffee Talk, which be online at 10 a.m. Register to get the Zoom link!

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