Mechanics of a Perfect Translation

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by John of Japan, May 4, 2007.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,219
    Likes Received:
    194
    There have been a few times in history when some people believed their particular translation was perfect: the Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, the KJV (which I have loved and read daily from the time I was a little boy, almost 50 years). Now there have been many, many books written on this subject, and I've read many of them.

    Here's my problem. Almost without exception those books are written by people who are not Bible translators. And almost without exception none of those books, repeat none, deal with the actual process of how a perfect translation is produced. As far as I know, only two books have been written by Fundamentalists on how to translate, and neither of them deals with this. Nor do any of the evangelical or secular books I have on translation methodology.

    By the grace of God I am working on the first ever Japanese NT from the TR in modern Japanese (there have been two in classical Japanese, neither in print). I've translated over 70% in a first draft translation, and my Japanese linguist and I have corrected John, Romans and most of Matthew. Got that? Corrected! Am I doing something wrong? So, if a perfect translation is possible, then how do I go about producing it? What steps should I take?

    Here's what I do (other than praying, of course):

    (1) Glance through the Greek, make a quick and literal translation.
    (2) Check vocabulary by lexicons, NT usage, Japanese dictionaries and usage, and very occasionally etymology (word origins).
    (3) Check Greek grammar forms if needed (especially verbs).
    (4) Check other Japanese translations.
    (5) Compare to the English.
    (6) Eventually, take it to my Japanese linguist who then suggests corrections.
    (7) Sit in committee (occasionally I have more than one person helping me) with my linguist, discuss the verse and come to a final version.

    So, where in here does the perfection come? :type:
     
  2. deacon jd

    deacon jd
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2006
    Messages:
    228
    Likes Received:
    0
    First of all I would ask God if it is his will for there to be a perfect Bible and if there is such a Bible. When he revealed to me that it was the King James Bible I would thank him for it and teach all of my students and new converts how to read and speak English.
     
  3. franklinmonroe

    franklinmonroe
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    2,872
    Likes Received:
    3
    May God bless you and your work! None are perfect in first edition. I'd suggest that you should work as fast as you are comfortable and get it published. You will not catch everything, but the reading public will (and they'll let you know about it, too). Make the necessary corrections in the following editions. Keep the faith, John! We're praying for you.
     
  4. EdSutton

    EdSutton
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2006
    Messages:
    8,755
    Likes Received:
    0
    So English, (and 17th Century English is supposed to be the perfect language?) Ya' might wanna' ask God why he first spoke in Hebrew, then!

    Gimme' a break!

    Franklin Monroe is right -on in his comments, here. God at Pentecost gave the gift of Languages (tongues) so that the people could hear in their own language. I don't see any remote reference how that that was 17th Century English, and say that is Hogwash!!


    And for someone to tell me that I need to abandon "redneck" as my 'native' language, in favor of one that was in vogue four centuries ago, is in the same category! :laugh:

    Have you ever heard of koine Greek, the language of the NT? Koine meant "common" Greek, the everyday language of the people, neither the 'Attic prose', nor classical Greek, the usual Greek dialects spoken in the world of academe! :rolleyes:

    Ed
     
    #4 EdSutton, May 4, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2007
  5. Jkdbuck76

    Jkdbuck76
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2007
    Messages:
    2,263
    Likes Received:
    64
    My prayers are with you , John.
     
  6. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,219
    Likes Received:
    194
    Many thanks to franklinmonroe and Jkdbuck76 for the prayers.
     
  7. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,219
    Likes Received:
    194
    This would be extremely unpractical. Japanese are notoriously difficult to teach English to-and I've taught many, many English lessons to Japanese people. Your solution would ensure extreme difficulty in getting the Gospel out to the Japanese, so I can't believe it is God's will.
     
  8. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,219
    Likes Received:
    194
    I left out a couple of steps in my OP (which I wrote late last night).

    (8) Send it to my son, who is brilliant in the original languages and fluent in Japanese, since he grew up here. He is quite happy to correct more of my errors.

    (9) Before publication it will go through several proof-readings. I've done this professionally (in English), so I know from experience that there will be errors that get by even this process. Plus, this will catch the errors of spelling and punctuation, but not translation. I occasionally find translation blunders in the Shinkaiyaku Bible that we use (similar to the NASV), though it was proofread 8 times.
     
  9. robycop3

    robycop3
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2000
    Messages:
    7,574
    Likes Received:
    10
    Well, He isn't gonna do it, as the KJV has more than one clear goof..."Easter" in Acts 12:4, "God forbid" in numerous places, "God save the king, a clearly BRITISH expression in others, "Thou shalt not KILL" insteada "murder", & many others. So if any spirit tellsya the KJV is "it", it won't be the HOLY Spirit.
     
  10. tinytim

    tinytim
    Expand Collapse
    <img src =/tim2.jpg>

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2003
    Messages:
    11,250
    Likes Received:
    0
    Since you are way smarter than me JoJ, I will only say that I will pray for you, and let the church know to pray also...

    It does give you a healthy respect for the translators of other versions doesn't it....
     
  11. Rippon

    Rippon
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2005
    Messages:
    17,410
    Likes Received:
    328
    JoJ , I pray for you and all that painstaking work that you summarized . It takes a lot of effort to be faithful in translating the Bible ( which I know nothing about ) . It is demanding enough to be faithful and God-honoring in other areas in a believer's life .
     
  12. NaasPreacher (C4K)

    NaasPreacher (C4K)
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    Administrator

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2003
    Messages:
    26,806
    Likes Received:
    78
    Couldn't pass up on this :). Great comment.

    Praise God for this marvelous and vital work John.

    I haven't a clue about how to help you, but I can pray :).
     
  13. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,219
    Likes Received:
    194
    Aw, shucks. [​IMG]
    Thank you so much.
    I had no idea when I started how many 1000s of hours it would take, how much thought, how much study. I now respect anyone who translates the Word of God in any language, but especially in a completely new language. I have over 30 books on the shelves reserved for help in translation, and regularly use about 5 different Bible programs. I can't imagine starting completely from scratch in a new language.
     
  14. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,219
    Likes Received:
    194
    Thanks for the prayers.

    Faithful is the right word. As you may remember, I once did a thread here about a failed translation effort. The translator must be very determined to see it through to the very end, as I am finding out.
     
  15. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,219
    Likes Received:
    194
    Hey, you can be sure that Paul catches a lot of my mistakes. It's humbling--especially when he says, "Dad, why in the world would you translate it that way? Didn't you see that...(the tense was different, recent research says that word means suchandsuch, that preposition had the accusative instead of the genetive, etc. etc.).

    Thanks for the prayers.
     
  16. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,219
    Likes Received:
    194
    Mistakes I Make

    Here are some of the mistakes I’m likely to make (along with other translators) in translating. :BangHead: Note that here I am not dealing with errors that may come from flaws in the translator’s method.

    (1) Grammatical errors. Fortunately Japanese grammar is fairly simple. (It is the Chinese characters and the keigo honorifics that are hard.) If the translator does not have a firm grasp of the grammar in the receptor language he will end up saying things like: “They was following they Lord.” This will communicate, but poorly.
    (2) Syntactical errors. My grammar may be perfect, but if my syntax is not it will still sound strange. Uncle Miya often says to me, “But Sensei (“Teacher”), we don’t say it that way.” This is particularly difficult in Japanese, which is not a very free language, unlike English. There is often only one way to say an idea in Japanese. (Example: it is always “good weather,” never “beautiful weather.”)
    (3) Errors of vocabulary. I may use a word that is somewhat off in meaning and doesn’t carry the right nuance, or a word that carries a negative connotation rather than a positive one, or a word that has changed in emphasis or been replaced since I went to language school 26 years ago.
    (4) Errors of context. If I don’t understand the context, I may use a word that doesn’t convey the exact meaning of the original
    (5) Errors of spelling. In Japanese, this consists usually of using the wrong kanji (Chinese character) or combination of kanji. Sometimes it consists of using kanji when the Department of Education has decreed that a word will be spelled with kana (the syllable alphabet) from now on.
    (6) Errors of omission. I find that much more often than I think I do, I forget to translate a word that is in the original. “All” especially eludes me. Uncle Miya and my son are usually only too glad to inform me of this.
    (7) Errors of addition. On rare occasions I add a word that is not in the original.
    (8) Errors of politeness. Japanese has several different levels of politeness, depending on the level in society of the speaker and listener.
    (9) Errors of literary quality. It would sound very strange to Japanese ears to have someone like Christ say the equivalent of, “Hey dude.” They expect dignity in their holy books.

    I’m sure there are others that I haven’t thought of, but it is getting late and tomorrow is Sunday. (Please pray for our services, since we have two lost people coming.) I hope the readers of this thread are starting to understand better the process of translation, and consider more deeply what a perfect translation would mean. Oyasumi nasai. (“Rest well.”) :sleeping_2:
     
  17. Salamander

    Salamander
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2005
    Messages:
    3,965
    Likes Received:
    0
    I would hope you would ask for more than the few of you to take on such a tremendous task.

    "There is safety in the multitude of counsellors."

    I wonder how that translated into modern Japanese?
     
  18. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,219
    Likes Received:
    194
    One of my biggest problems is finding qualified help that will stick. There are very few missionaries or Japanese pastors who can handle the Greek, and it is also hard to find Japanese believers who understand the grammar and syntax and vocabulary of their own language well enough to help. Some Japanese think there is only one way to say something--their own--and are very rigid about this.

    Our missionary co-worker was a brilliant linguist and a great help, knowing both Greek and Japanese. He was a linguist in Russian for US Air Force intelligence in a former life. However, he retired from the field last year and now does furlough replacement. Their gain, our great loss.

    I have a retired Japanese pastor and a returned Japanese missionary who have helped me some, but "Uncle Miya" Miyakawa, a retired high school English teacher, is my jewel. He has come to know my translation method, my priorities, etc., and always has several ways to say something. He's up in his 70's now, but I tell him he can't go to Heaven till we're finished! :smilewinkgrin:
     
    #18 John of Japan, May 5, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2007
  19. Charles Meadows

    Charles Meadows
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2003
    Messages:
    2,276
    Likes Received:
    0
    Kenneth Pike's writings, I think, hold a good deal of valuable perspective on this subject.
     
  20. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,219
    Likes Received:
    194
    Thank you, Charles. I'll keep an eye open for Pike, who I have not read. I do have several of Nida's books, of course. I assume they are a similar approach.
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page

Loading...