The Literal Is Not Best

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by Rippon, Jul 29, 2008.

  1. Rippon

    Rippon
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    I just bought a book over the weekend at the behest of a Koran friend. I had paged through it before, but actually purchased it this time. It's called : Korea Unmasked : In Search Of The Country, The Society And The People. Won-bok Rhie is the illustrator,while Jung Un & Louis Choi are the translators.

    Yes, the format of this 236 page book is comic-book style.However, he makes what I think are significant points.I know I have posted this on the Bible Versions/Translations forum, but I think some application can be made to the methodology of Bible translation.

    I will quote from a segment of Mr. Choi's Translator's Notes.

    The translation of this comic book about Korea aims at accuracy, conveying the intent and message of the author,which,ironically,meant straying from a strictly literal translation of the text.How far do I divagate (sic) from a "word for word" translation and what standard of English should be employed? Comic books are different from novels and illustrated books:words and images work together as functional parts of a sentence.After translating Rousseau's "Emile," Allan Bloom wrote that every translation is "in some sense an interpretation; and thus there can be no mechanical rules for translation." My translation of this book is an interpretation,an idea of what I thought the author was tring to convey through the alliance of words and drawings. A literal translation would have eliminated the humor, the inside jokes only a Korean would know, leaving the English reader to sluggishly forge through a dry and awkward representation of Korea. I try to convey the spirit and passion of this book by utilizing the entire English language,vernacular and standard.
     
  2. franklinmonroe

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    Thanks, Rippon. It is refreshing to read these sincere comments in a non-biblical context and thus without the emotional charged bias.

    I can personally apply a musical metaphor --
    • each musician [translators]
    • comes to the same musical score [the text]
    • and plays it on his/her instrument [pen & paper]
    • producing sound [translation]
    Of course, every performance does not sound exactly the same [versions]; each musician brings their own experience (that is, skills & knowledge) to the notes on the sheet music and may play it slightly louder/softer, or faster/slower, etc. than another musician (thus creating their own interpretation). The resulting performances may be different, but that alone does not make any of them incorrect.
     
    #2 franklinmonroe, Jul 29, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 29, 2008
  3. John of Japan

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    Really strange Rippon. We're supposed to learn about Bible translation from the translator of a Korean comic book? No thanks.

    It is not widely realized in the literature on Bible translation, (and certainly not on this forum) that there are many kinds of translation (not to mention verbal interpretation): literary, business, diplomatic, news, movie subtitles, scholarly, and oh yes, comic book translation. All have different goals, techniques and principles. I have personally done various kinds. (I once translated a Bach mass from Latin to Japanese.:saint: ) My co-worker right now is working on a scholarly translation.

    Comic book translations (even ones trying to teach history) have an extrememly different goal from Bible translation: entertainment as opposed to communicating God's truth. Surely that can be seen even from Rippon's OP!
     
  4. Rippon

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    Hello JoJ. Well Franklin M. appreciated the ideas expressed in my OP. I think that application can be made. Sure,translating a comic book is nowhere near the same thing as translating the Word of God.That's obvious. But, conveying words from one language to another very different one is challenging. Conventional means can't be implemented.I think Martin Luther would have agreed with Mr. Louis Choi, for the most part.

    By the way, entertainment was not the sole or primary thrust of the book. It's an effort put forth for foreigners to better understand Korea. A good deal of it was history, humorous history, but history nonetheless. The authors want to do a whole series on European countries as well.
     
  5. John of Japan

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    But the book doesn't succeed if it doesn't entertain, right? So entertainment is the main means by which a comic book communicates, even one trying to teach history, even if the final goal is different. (And I have read a few Japanese manga in the original.) You yourself wrote in the OP how the humor had to be right or it wouldn't work. Written humor doesn't cross cultures well, though funny illustrations can.

    So the end result had to be dynamic as opposed to literal. Different goal from a Bible translation, different techniques, different philosophy of translation. Hey, if I were translating a comic book I wouldn't translate it literally either. Nida would be proud of me, as long as it was only a comic book! :thumbs:

    Have to hit the sack. It's late.
     
  6. Rippon

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    It was not a matter of "how the humor had to be right".If it had been written in a literal fashion, the humor would not have been communicated at all.

    I saw the first "Stewart Little" movie in a theater packed with Koreans years ago.There was a line in the movie in which the little mouse says:"I feel ten inches tall!"No one was laughing but me.They didn't get the joke.During that scene the translation at the bottom of the screen just had the wooden "I feel 10 inches tall". It's an idiom which does not translate without a dynamic rendering.Even then it probably wouldn't come across in a very understandable way.When we, as people, feel proud we say "I feel ten feet tall.!"But here's a little mouse 5 inches in stature trying to convey the same sense.It's tough.

    Though the subject matter is entirely different in a comic book format from that of a Bible -- some things still apply -- the understanding of the receptors.

    In the past we've discussed Bible idioms; especially the ones in Psalms.I maintained that the functionally-equivalent versions work best in that terrain.Idioms dominate in that book. A more form-driven translation will encounter rough-going in that environment. However, a version which employs a dynamic method would communicate more effectively.The more literalness you employ, then there is less understanding conveyed to the receptors.
     
  7. John of Japan

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    Thanks for eloquently making my point. This is what I was trying to say: humor must be translated dynamically or it won't communicate. However, the Bible is not humor. It is extremely serious communication of truth, as you agree. Therefore the method must be different.

    To me, the closest secular equivalent to Bible translation is diplomatic translation. Unlike translating comics, the method in diplomatic translation must put authorial intent before reader comprehension. Since God is the ultimate Author of the Bible, surely the truths the Sovereign God intends to convey in the Bible are far more important than whether or not the reader comprehends those truths. Surely as a Calvinist you can agree with that!

    Reader comprehension is important. But once again, in DE the reader's comprehension comes before authorial intent, but conservative methods put authorial intent first, even trying to preserve ambiguities. So we will continue to disagree here.

    Sounds like you're learning Korean. I don't believe I've seen you discussing Korean meanings before. Go for it!
     
  8. ZBs

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    I agree with JoJ. I have, in my few years, translated texts for friends and clients, ranging from Germen-to-English, Japanese-to-English, and even Germen-to-Japanese.
    When you read something in a language that you know, but your client doesn't, you have to consider some things; for instance, what quirks does the text contain that don't translate over? If I were translating "I went to New York to see my friends" to Japanese, I wouldn't use their word for "see", since I didn't go to literally look at them; I would use "meet".

    Little things like that, over and over and over, can make the finished product seem different, or even inaccurate, if translated back into English word for word.
     
  9. Rippon

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    Hi ZBs. I don't believe we've met before.I think you meant you agreed with me,not JoJ.JoJ prefers to be more literal in translation.I favor the functional-equivalence approach.The "client" would not get first priority in his method.
     
  10. Rippon

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  11. ZBs

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    Ahahaha, I see.
    Wow, I misread almost all of that.

    But, ah, everything after the part about me agreeing with anyone is still my posted opinion.

    *feels silly*
     
  12. Rippon

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    I know I am rehashing old things here. But it might be good for some new lurkers.

    When I say that I prefer a more functionally-equivalent version rather than a more literal one, there are some things I need to explain. First, there is no such thing as a translation which is purely one or the other. The NLTse,for example, uses a good deal of literalness even though it is considered more form-driven overall.

    Translations like TNIV,NET Bible,ISV and HCSB are mediating translations.They try to strike a balance between the two methodologies.

    The late Herbert M.Wolf wrote an article called "Literal vs. Accurate".It is contained in a 1991 publication from Baker books :The Making Of The NIV. Here's a slice from page 134.

    Granted,no version that aims at accuracy is eager to depart from a literal translation too often.Believers want to know what the Bible says as well as what it means. But, as the examples in this chapter have tried to show,at times it is necessary to move away from a literal translation so that the message of the Scriptures can be clearly communicated.The NIV has been very cautious when it has departed from a "literal" rendering,but its willingness to be less literal has markedly enhanced its overall accuracy.
     
  13. John of Japan

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    Um, you are really missing my point here, Rippon. It depends on what kind of translation I was doing as to how dynamic my translation would be. In doing some kinds of secular translation I might even do a complete paraphrase--just not in Bible translation.
     
  14. John of Japan

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    Translating "meet" for "see" is just what I do in translating from Greek into Japanese. This is well within the paramaters of my translation method, called optimal equivalence (the method of the NKJV and HCSV Bible translators). Rippon is talking about a bit more than that.

    I have to run now, so I can't find it for you, but there is a BB thread from some time ago where I discuss in detail the problems with the dynamic equivalence (functional equivalence) method of translation.
     
  15. Rippon

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    No,I didn't miss your point.I meant Bible translation.
     
  16. Rippon

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  17. John of Japan

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    Think back. ZBs was talking about secular translation. You answered saying I preferred more literal translation. So I am left to logically conclude that you think I translate everything literally when I've been trying to say there are different methods for different tasks. Next time please be more clear.
     
  18. John of Japan

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    I can't comment on the HCSB, since I don't have it and haven't read it. I only know what the translators say.
     
  19. John of Japan

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    Since Rippon started with a quote, I'm going to add one here. I've been looking at the 1950 reprint of the 1906 2nd edition of The Letters of St. Paul and Hebrews, translated by Arthur S. Way. This is a pretty free translation, a paraphrase in fact, but read what Way writes:

    "These versions giving the literal rendering as they do, constitute a court of appeal in matters of faith, the only possible one. It is also the only form of translation about which there can be anything like the general agreement. No expanded, explanatory translation could be final, as is evidenced by the variety of opinions as to the interpretation of many passages in the Epistles. This form of translation is the only one for which permanent acceptance could reasonably be expected" (p. ix). :type:
     
  20. John of Japan

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    Clarification: I didn't mean theologically conservative or liberal here. I meant conservative in translation method.

    Having said that, I've recently come to where I classify translations in two categories: theologically based and linguistically based. By this I mean that "conservative" (in the above meaning) Bible translation methods start out with the theological presupposition of the verbal-plenary inspiration of the Bible. On the other hand, linguistically based translation methods begin with linguistic presuppositions, such as that of Nida that language is a code, or with him and others the presuppostion that clear communication, producing reader response, is the most vital element of a translation, as opposed to authorial intent.
     

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