Translating from English

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by Pastor_Bob, Jul 24, 2006.

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  1. Pastor_Bob

    Pastor_Bob
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    In the introduction to the book The Challenge of Bible Translation, co-author Glen G. Scorgie writes:


    My thought that I offer here for discussion is this: If this author is correct in the objective of Bible translation, and I believe that he is, then knowledge of the receptor language is the most important factor in producing a translation that can be understood even to the “thought-constructs” of a people. One may be skilled in the ancient languages, but without a thorough knowledge of the receptor language, the translation would be severely lacking.

    So, if an English Missionary is not skilled in the ancient languages, but is fluent in the language of the people to which God has called him, what would be the translational problems with translating the Bible from his English Bible, which accurately conveys the meaning of the source text to English? Would he not be able to faithfully translate the original meaning from English to the receptor language? Or, should he wait until someone comes along that can translate from the original languages to the receptor languages, which may be an indefinite period of time?
     
  2. Gayla

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    That's a good question. And a tough one!

    I think he should start to translate from his English Bible.
     
  3. TomVols

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    Bob, you ask a good question. I think ideally you'd like to have someone who can go from the Heb/Grk to the receptor language (You and I both praise God for Wycliffe Translators and others who labor to get the Word into the many languages that are void of His Word). If you have a person taking a literal English translation into a receptor language, it may depend on the nature of the receptor language as to the accuracy of the translation. All in all, I believe a translation could be crafted that would be faithful, but not as faithful as one from the originals. I guess my thought is like that of English paraphrases and DE translations. God does use these to draw people to salvation and sanctification, but Verbal Plenary inspiration demands that we be as faithful to the original as possible.

    Ultimately, I would argue that if a translation is not understandable, it is not accurate. You would seem to agree, though I don't want to put words in your mouth, friend :)
     
  4. Rippon

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    Accuracy has to involve the readibility factor .

    I gave some Martin Luther quotes ( translated into English ;) ) on another thread some time ago . Regarding verbal plenary translation -- isn't it important to convey the sense of the sentences , not only a focus on individual words ?
     
  5. NaasPreacher (C4K)

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    Obviously the best choice would be a skilled, qualified linguists.

    Failing that a translation from English is FAR better than nothing.
     
  6. John of Japan

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    Hello, Pastor Bob.

    Excellent question! Let me see if I can make some meaningful contributions.

    First of all, as others have said, the ideal is for a translation from the original languages. The reason for this is that translating from English makes the end product (if you'll pardon that word used about the Bible) what is called a "double translation." Inevitably in a double translation, meaning is lost or changed.

    For example, take the English word "to justify," from the Greek word dikaiow. The English word has a wider range of meaning than the Greek word. Besides the Biblical meaning, it can mean justifying the text in your word processor, or making yourself look right to others, as in: “He tried to justify his mistake to his boss.” However, the Japanese language, with its dependency on Buddhism and Shinto, has no single such word as the Greek word, which must then be translated with a phrase. If the translator is not careful, it is easy to get this word wrong even when translating from the Greek, never mind the English with its wider range of meaning. So the ideal is to translate from the original languages rather than the Greek.


    Having said this, it is not widely known in the homeland that many translations are made from various English versions. It is not just KJVO (or preferred) missionaries who translate from the English (as in a recent Korean translation), it is often MV advocates. The reason for this is that there are just too few scholars able to translate from the original languages that make it out here to the fields of the world. The homeland is very stingy with its scholars, and snatches them up for its own purposes. Sometimes also when men with a doctorate and/or ability in the original languages do make it out here they eventually get snapped up by the home office of the mission board.

    My view? There is an unbelievable number of languages with no translation of the Bible, not even a portion of it! According to Wycliffe there are about 4000 languages with nothing, though about 1640 languages have translations in progress. If a language has no Bible, and a missionary doesn’t know the original languages well enough to translation from them, but has an excellent grasp of the receptor language, I say he or she should go to it, and may God be with them! So yes, I agree that the most important thing for a Bible translator is fluency in the receptor language. :type:
     
  7. John of Japan

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    Definitely! :thumbs: :thumbsup:
     
  8. Pastor_Bob

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    I agree with your view here and, although I am not skilled in any language but English, I am aware that no two human languages ever match up exactly word for word. Translating is not as simple as converting Fahrenheit to Celsius or Roman numerals to regular numbers.

    It is a given that some things will be lost or at least hidden through translation, therefore, would you agree with the author I referenced above when he says:
    I think we all agree that the best scenario is to translate from the original languages, but when that it not possible, understanding the limitations of the translating process, carefully translating from the English is acceptable and can result in a faithful translation.
     
  9. Hope of Glory

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    And here, is the answer, put quite succintly.
     
  10. John of Japan

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    A caveat: we must still teach the nationals that the originals are what have the primary authority.

    I'm reading a fascinating book right now on translation from a secular view with the title, Translation Studies. (It's downstairs right now and I'm too lazy to go get it to find out the author.:sleep:) Anyway, in the secular field, there is a movement to esteem a translation as a stand-alone work with no reference needed to the original. This seems to have begun with the work of Ezra Pound, who translated an epic poem and purposefully omitted all reference to God and Christianity in his translation!

    Until the 20th century, all translators everywhere knew that the original was what counted. Now in both the secular and sacred fields, the translation sometimes takes precedence--a sad state of affairs.
     
  11. Pastor_Bob

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    Not having served on the foreign mission field, I cannot argue this point, so please do not view this as an attack, but merely a question. Would doing what you suggest create an uncertainty in the minds of the nationals as to the reliability of their Bible? Would it not be better to give them the confidence that the Bible they hold in their hands is an accurate and faithful representation of God's Word? Would not the translation derive sufficient authority as being a faithful translation of the originals?
     
  12. John of Japan

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    Good point, Pastor_Bob.

    I am very careful about how I talk about the Japanese Bible we use. As you say, I certainly don't want to put doubts in their minds about the Word of God. So I never say, "This is mistaken in your Bible." I may say (rarely), "Your Bible has a good translation here, but perhaps a better one would be...."

    Having said that, Japanese people understand much better than the typical American what the process of translation is, since they have to take six years of English (3 jr. high, 3 high school). Many of them also continue their study of English in college or as a hobby after growing up. Unfortuantely the average American knows nothing but English, not being required anymore even to take a language in high school, so the average American in the pew knows nothing at all about the translation process.
     
  13. El_Guero

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    You must have a solid knowledge of the target language. Without understanding the target language (the people and their culture) you just cannot translate into their language accurately.

    IMHO. Translating from English well is better than translating from Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic badly.
     
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