Readability Challenge

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by Rufus_1611, Feb 23, 2007.

  1. Rufus_1611

    Rufus_1611
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    One of the most oft cited cause for the creation of new Bibles is the necessity of making the Bible easier to read. While I have heard many opinions about what is easier, I've only seen one objective argument for evaluating which text is actually easiest to read. This argument centers around the use of the Flesch-Kincaid readability tests. In this thread I desire to make a case for Flesch-Kincaid in how it is an authority on this issue and demonstrate how it can be used by anyone to objectively evaluate readability. I will then attempt to test various passages in various Bibles for comparative purposes. Finally, I challenge those that believe it is not an effective test, to demonstrate why Flesch-Kincaid is an inappropriate testing system to use and provide an alternative objective test, with alternative objective results.

    Authority of Flesch-Kincaid
    • The Flesch-Kincaid tests have history behind them in that they have been utilized for over 50 years.
    • The tests have a major authority behind them in that the most industrialized nation in the world and a leader of the world for most of the 20th century uses the Flesch-Kincaid as a standard. According to Oleander Solutions, The Flesch Reading Ease test "is a standard used by many U.S. government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Defense."
    • The tests have world leaders in software using them as Microsoft Word and Lotus Wordpro include these tests for use in their word processing programs.
    • Institutes of higher learning include the use of these tools. Here is a link to one university discussing the testshttp://www.utexas.edu/research/acce...dability/manual/flesch-calculate-English.html. Here's a University in the UK that sited the use of the Flesch-Kincaid to prove that a certain website was too complex for diabetes sufferers. Notice their comment about the study...
      "The study used the generally accepted Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level formulae to test the readability of documents."​
    Thus, a couple questions would be.

    • Are the Flesch-Kincaid tests, in fact, generally accepted for testing the readability of documents?
    • Is there any reason why these tests are unsuitable for the evaluation of the text contained within the varied Bible versions?
     
  2. Disgruntled UK Baptist

    Disgruntled UK Baptist
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    These tests are based on word length, aren't they? The problem with modern readers reading the KJV is not that the words are long (they aren't) but that some of the grammar is unfamiliar and, particularly that many words have simply changed their meaning.

    D.
     
  3. Rufus_1611

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    How to perform a Flesch Kincaid test using Microsoft Word.

    Within Microsoft Word
    Select Tools > Options > Spelling & Grammar > Select "Show Readability Statistics"
    Copy or input your text to test
    Select Tools > Spelling & Grammar
    Once Spell check and grammar check are completed the readability statistics will be displayed

    At the bottom of the list you will see "Flesch Reading Ease" and "Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level"
     
  4. Pastor Larry

    Pastor Larry
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    The best readability test is people. Over the years of ministry, it is beyond dispute that the KJV is far harder to read than other versions. (That doesn't necessarily mean it is an inferior version. That is beside the point here.)

    A readability test like the Flesh-Kincaid doesn't actually read. It judges sentence length, word length, etc. as I recall. It doesn't take into account where the verb is in relation to the noun, nor whether or not a word is a common word.
     
  5. Rufus_1611

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    Here is the formula for the Flesch-Kincaid.

    [​IMG]

    Are you contending that there is no objective way to evaluate readability and we may rely only on the opinions of people? Why doesn't the government just send out surveys when they are drafting their documents?
     
  6. Rufus_1611

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    The test is evaluated by total words, total sentences and syllables in the words. If it's just a matter of the meaning of words, that does not make a text easier or harder to read, it just means an individual has a limited vocabulary and would need to expand that vocabulary via reading other text or via opening a dictionary.
     
  7. Disgruntled UK Baptist

    Disgruntled UK Baptist
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    What you are describing is the ability to "decode" - as we used to call it when I was teacher training many moons ago. The fact that someone can decode soemthign and read it does not mean they understand it. I can decode French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Latin and Greek and probably several others. I am sure you can too. I would stand little chance of understanding a conversation in any of those languages except French and German, and even in French and German the speaker would have to keep the vocabulary very small and speak slowly.

    You are confusing the ability to read out words on a page with the ability to actually understand what is being read.

    D.
     
  8. Disgruntled UK Baptist

    Disgruntled UK Baptist
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    This can be done of course. The single biggest problem is that many of the words that are not understood are in fact very familiar words, but they mean something quite different these days. Prevent, let, suffer, man, meat, quiet, sober, and many many others, just do not mean the same thing now that they meant in 1611. THAT is the problem.

    D.
     
  9. Pastor Larry

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    I know of no objective way to measure readability because it depends on people's intelligence, education, cultural and social background, etc. What is extremely readable to me is not to someone else. We can obviously put texts on a general continuum, but that is not "objective" such as a math equation would be.

    We can objectively tell is someone can read something. That doesn't necessarily help us to obtain readability of the text.

    Because it's not their purpose I assume. Government documents are generally not written to be readable. I think they are written primarily to confuse people.
     
  10. Rufus_1611

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    :laugh: Good one.
     
  11. Logos1560

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    One reason these tests would be unsuitable is because that they would indicate incorrect conclusions because of the way that the Bible versions, especially the KJV, had words divided into more syllables than later English translations. For example, the KJV has often-used words such as "to day," "to morrow," "for ever" that would count as two shorter and supposedly easier words according to this test while later English translations may have the exact same renderings as one longer word that would likely count as a harder, longer word. In addition, these tests would not indicate whether words are used with archaic meanings that are not commonly understood.
     
  12. Ed Edwards

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    Logos1560: // ... these tests would not indicate whether words are used with archaic meanings that are not commonly understood.//

    This is a MAJOR PROBLEM. I've got a series of posts that
    show common misunderstandings of archaic meanings
    of KJVs words which lead to doctrinal differences.
     
  13. Keith M

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    People can usually find something that supports their agenda when they have an agenda such a proving the KJV is easy reading for those not familiar with archaic English. Such is this test that "proves" the KJV is easier to read than many other versions. However, it is just as easy to come up with information to show something to the contrary. The information at http://www.sundayschoolresources.com/biblechoices.htm shows the KJV is written at a 12th grade reading level while some of the modern versions are written at a reading level much easier to understand.

    No test is completely infallible. It may be true the KJV doesn't have a lot of long words in it. But the meanings of many or the words have changed, and that is what makes reading comprehension harder for those not familiar with archaic English. I agree 1000% :smilewinkgrin: with Pastor Larry's statement when he said "The best readability test is people." If people don't comprehend what they are reading the shorter words don't mean a thing. :thumbs:

    At http://resources.bibles.com/vsItemD...5AC-265E-4C93-B7C46D32C1D07DB0&method=display the American Bible Society shows just how unreliable these tests really are.
     
    #13 Keith M, Feb 24, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 24, 2007
  14. Ed Edwards

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    Speaking of pronouns, recently I was teaching 1st Kings in
    my Sunday School class. There were places where two people
    and God were involved. The older Bibles used 'he' for God
    and 'he' for each of the two people - it was sometimes difficult
    to tell who was meant by 'he'. While the more modern Versions
    of the Bible use 'He' for God, it was still sometimes difficult to
    tell which of the two 'he's were being discussed.
     
  15. Pastor Larry

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    If you think it's hard in English to determine who the pronouns refer to, you should try it in Greek or Hebrew. It is often worse.
     
  16. Ed Edwards

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    Using the E-Sword search engine:

    KJV1769 'he' 7,607 verses 10,430 hits
    KJV1611 'he' 5,507 verses- 6,970 hits
    KJV1611 'hee 3,105 verses 3,500 hits
    KJV1611 he & hee 10,470

    'he' has been taken out of the KJV1611 40 times
    to make the KJV1769 :laugh:

    (sorry to mock those who do Bible words counts, as thougth
    it were of some signifance. I refer, of course, to
    the blood of animals being removed as though it were the
    Sweet, Precious Blood of my Lord & Savior, Jesus - the Messiah --
    the Blood poured freely for all those who will accept it's
    cleansing power)
     
  17. robycop3

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    Once again, the best test of all is a REALITY CHECK. For the average English reader, modern English is easier to read than Elizabethan English, and THAT'S THAT!
     
  18. BruceB

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    I think the various methods of rating a Bible's readability could be of some use to those choosing first Bibles for children or for those whose primary language is other than that which the Bible is written in.

    For anyone who has already studied the Bible I think that persons own ability levels are the best judge, i.e., read selections in several different versions and pick according to how well you understand. The rating methods that use word length cannot take into account a persons education level, comprehension ability, or familiarity with the text to begin with. Bruce
     
  19. tinytim

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    Thank you. I didn't know I could do this.
     
  20. tinytim

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    But there is no place for definitions in the passage.
    According to this, a certain reading written in Spanish could have a readability of 5th grade, but since I don't know what the words mean, I could not read it.

    The same goes with modern day readers...
    Some words have changed meaning since 1769.
    This is the reason for some bad doctrine.
     

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