Anatomy of a failed translation

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by John of Japan, Feb 1, 2006.

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  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    This is in answer to Mexdeaf, who on another thread asked a question about the "Kijun Yaku" effort in Japan, a translation from the TR which failed.

    I believe that any translation effort is a great blessing to the translators, the equivalent of concentrated Bible study. However, sometimes a translation only has one edition, or doesn't even get published. I would call this, for purposes of discussion, a "failed translation."

    I wrote this about the "Kijun Yaku": "1978--An effort from the TR Greek text by independent Baptists, the Kijun Yaku ("Standard Translation") project produced a pilot version of the Gospel of Mark, but it had many errors of translation and orthography. A handwritten first draft was eventually finished of the entire New Testament, but its whereabouts is unfortunately unknown."

    Mexdeaf asked for "a personal opinion from you as to why the Kijun Yaku project came to such an end."

    (1) The pool of scholarship is small in Japan, including among those interested in a TR-based translation (mostly IBF pastors and missionaries). Thus, it was very hard to find qualified translators.

    (2) There was dissension in the ranks. In particular, one particular Japanese pastor/missionary with little or no Greek training was very dogmatic on various renderings.

    (3) There was a lack of support from the homeland. In those days, very few pastors in the States would have seen the need for such an effort. This seems to be changing.

    (4) In the end, there was a lack of committment by the missionaries and pastors involved.

    Any comments or questions? What do you think about failed translations in English? Do they deserve to fail?
     
  2. DeclareHim

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    Unfortunately many English translations that should probably fail end up selling millions of copies. Of course there are exceptions: NKJV,NASB,ESV. Some version have deserved to fail I think of the TNIV which I sincerely hope does not get much use. I hope the NET,WEB both do good in sales both are quality translation and are under the radar.
     
  3. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    In my view, from the point of missions, many English translations should not be printed. The process of translation is very beneficial to the translator, but other than that, why do we need more English translations?

    There remain 2000 languages with no part of the Bible translated into them. It is my view that some of those translators missed their call to be a missionary translator!!
     
  4. 4His_glory

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    While it is true that we need translations in other languages John, we must also remember that English is a living language and therefore always changing. There is nothing wrong with producing a good conservative updated English translation.

    I would be interested in seeing where you got your statistic for 2000 languages not having and part of the Bible translated into them.
     
  5. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Hi, 4His_glory.

    I realize that English is a living language, but we go home for furlough every 4-6 years, and about the only thing we find changed in the language is an occasional vocabulary word. The grammar and fundamental character of a language takes much longer to change. IMO, no language needs as much updating in their Bible translation as English has. According to Kubo and Specht (So Many Versions? ), there were over 200 versions of the English NT by 1983, the date of their revised book. There are many more now. Not fair!

    The 2000 languages statistic is an old one given often in missiology. I've seen it in several sources, but I admit I can't document it properly.

    Actually, though, my figure is low. According to Wycliffe, there are 6913 languages in the world, and over 3000 of them might need a translation. See: http://www.wycliffe.org/wbt-usa/trangoal.htm

    Doesn't it seem unfair--200 NTs in one language, and not even a Gospel of John in 3000? :( :(

    It reminds me of an old missions illustration. If you saw ten men carrying a huge log, with 9 on one end and 1 on the other, who would you help??
     
  6. Mexdeaf

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    John,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. Food for thought. When I have more time, I will share some thoughts.
     
  7. mioque

    mioque
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    "(1) The pool of scholarship is small in Japan, including among those interested in a TR-based translation (mostly IBF pastors and missionaries). Thus, it was very hard to find qualified translators."
    "
    When resources (wether it's money, or good scholars) are rare it becomes more and more problematic to be choosy.
    I know Ecumenism is a dirty word to many on this board, but if the alternative to an, It's not excellent but it will do translation is complete failure, I'll take it will do every time.
     
  8. Squire Robertsson

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    Mioque, I think limiting qualification was
    Without that qualifier, no doubt the pool of translators would be that much larger. And John did write
    So, I assume there was broader dare I say more ecumenical participation. But again he bumped up against the qualifier.
     
  9. mioque

    mioque
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    Squire
    I understand. I'm suggesting that the pool of TR fans among the Bible scholars in a missionary country can be so shallow that going for a TR translation is simply not feasable at that moment.
     
  10. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Right on, Squire. But Mioque does raise an interesting point.

    There actually is already an ecumenical version in Japanese. Here is the fascinating story for your perusal. In 1980 the Japan Bible Society brought out a NT, The Interconfessional Translation (Kyodo Yaku). The story I heard (can't verify it) is that a Catholic scholar did it himself, relying as much as possible on Vaticanus itself. Anyway, it leaned much towards the Catholic side of the "interconfession," such as having the Japanese spelling of the Bible names be Catholic rather than Protestant. (There are different spellings in Japanese. Jesus: Iesusus for Catholics, Iesu for Protestants.)

    Anyway, it was not well received, and was supposedly revised. However, I've been told that the "revision," the The New Interconfessional Translation (Shin Kyodo Yaku), was actually a completely new translation, but that would not be made public lest the original guy "lose face" in a big way.

    The committee of the new translation was very ecumenical, with many Catholics and Protestants (supposedly 70 total). However, there were only about 2 evangelicals. It came out in 1989 and has been well received, but not across the board.

    Here's the deal about such a translation. How do you agree on translation methodology, etc.? Sometimes it reads like dynamic equivalence, sometimes it is like the NASV. Some renderings are very good, others are lousy!

    Worst of all is how it translates baptizma. The Japanese word used is senrei, "washing ceremony," the same word used for sprinkling or pouring. Almost all other translations in Japan have transliterated, thus leaving the interpretation open. So, I have a copy and consult, but how could a Baptist recommend it? :(
     
  11. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Good point, mioque. And when it is tried before it should be, a failed translation can result, of course.

    What happens sometimes is that one person gets the vision and does a TR-based translation. I understand this has happened in Korea, with some controversy resulting. I don't know how good the translation is, or whether or not it will become a failed translation. The market does determine the success of a translation in a country where there are already successful translations.

    Where there is no translation in a language whatever, almost any translation can be successful--almost!! I heard of one case where a radically formal equivalence translation was tried in a tribal language. The grammar of the receptor language was virtually ignored--and when the backers found out how lousy it was, they pulled their support. Crash!! :eek:
     
  12. mioque

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    "The story I heard (can't verify it) is that a Catholic scholar did it himself, relying as much as possible on Vaticanus itself."
    "
    An ecumenical translation is only an ecumenical translation if there is a multi-denominational translation team.
    Not to mention that one has to doubt the insight of any modernday Bibletranslator who decides to use a single manuscript instead of a compilation like the Nestlé-Aland.

    "How do you agree on translation methodology, etc.?"
    "
    The same as for any other Bible translation project. You work from a set of common guidelines agreed upon beforehand.
     
  13. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    "Naruhodo." ("I see, I see.") ;)
     
  14. mioque

    mioque
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    John of Japan
    Does senrei cover immersion?
     
  15. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Alas, no. :(

    There are three elements to Japanese writing: hiragana (an alphabet for Japanese words and word endings), katakana (an alphabet for foreign words and names, loan words and transliteration) and kanji (Chinese characters).

    "Baptisma" is transliterate "baputezuma" in almost all translations. The Chinese compound word "senrei," meaning "washing ceremony," is the word used for baptism by most non-Baptist churches. "Shinrei," meaning "immersion ceremony," is the Chinese compound word used for baptism by immersion.

    And that is why Japanese language school takes two years, full time!

    [ February 03, 2006, 10:14 PM: Message edited by: John of Japan ]
     
  16. mioque

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    Well than it's obvious. The next Japanese Baptist Bible translation should have Shinrei in it.
     
  17. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Hmmmmmm. Hey. Yeah!! [​IMG]
     
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