Friday, October 8, 2021

Parshat Noach: Confusing/Distorting English Translation...

Chabad online Tanach

Yesterday when I was preparing for a Parshat Shavua, Torah Portion of the week class my neighbor teaches, I got "confused," sort of. 

First I must admit that I read it in English, even though we study in Hebrew. That's not usually a problem. When it comes to reading, my English is far superior to my Hebrew, but when I find something "peculiar," I check the Hebrew.

Please read the two circles sections. Concerning the descendants of Noach/Noah, Chapter 10, it says that they spoke multiple languages, blue circle. The sin/story of Migdal Bavel, the Tower of Babel ends with the builders punished by their speaking multiple languages instead of one. Look at what's in the red circle.

Both circled sections use the word language. It makes no sense.

So I decided to check out the Hebrew. Chapter 10 uses the word לשון lashon, tongue, while Chapter 11 uses שפה saffa, lip.

Translation isn't Mathematics. 1 is one, uno, achad etc. But as in one of my linguistic pet peeves, the Hebrew סרוג\סרוגה sarug/srugah can mean either knitting or crocheting which are not the same.

So my question is:

What's the difference between לשון lashon and שפה saffa when it comes to language? Not as parts of the mouth, which are obvious.



Joe in Australia said...

I’ve seen a suggestion that “lashon” is language and “safa” dialect, but I don’t think that helps. Instead, I’d say that this is an example of the Torah introducing a topic by briefly describing an event (“Why are there different nations with different languages if we’re all descended from the same people?” and then going back to describe it in detail.

Batya said...

Thanks, I think the difference is deeper considering context.