Ways of Doing a Translation

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by John of Japan, Aug 5, 2013.

  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    This past Wednesday Uncle Miya and I finished the second draft of our Japanese NT. Uncle Miya and I celebrated with an ice latte we took back to the church, something new to him. (He doesn't like restaurants.) Then I took the wife out for steak this evening to celebrate, and had a 300 gram (10 ounce) sirloin, and Patty had a smaller one. We had the salad bar (one of the very few in the city) and I had a tiramisu dessert. Delicious!

    I started the 1st draft in 2003, finishing it on 8/14/08. We started the 2nd draft in mid-2005, and finished it on 7/31/13. There is still much to be done, but John and Romans and some epistles are ready to be finalized. (John is being proofed still.)

    At any rate, this and the book I'm reading about a missionary translation has made me think about the different ways to do a Bible translation. I don't mean the translation method, I mean how the effort is pursued: one man, committee, tribal effort, etc. So I'm going to opine on that. :type:
     
  2. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    The effort most fraught with potential for spiritual failure, in my opinion, is the organization-led effort. I don't say it is always going to have problems, but the potential is there.

    For example, the worse-case scenario for me would be an effort commissioned and run by a for-profit publishing company. The possibility of the company mandating changes for the purpose of profitability is great. The Bible specifically forbids using the Word of God for a profit-making enterprise. (See 2 Cor. 2:17 where the word "corrupt" is a hapax legomenon meaning "to make a trade of"--Abbott-Smith, p. 230.)
     
  3. Mexdeaf

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    John,

    Congratulations on the accomplishment. May the Lord use this translation for His glory!

    I may be jumping the gun here- but just for the sake of clarity, do you place translations by organizations such as Wycliffe here? Personally, I see those efforts as being very different from what you have described.

    Just my thought- and as I said, likely premature.
     
  4. John of Japan

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    Thank you and amen!

    In my view a mission board which specializes in reaching tribal peoples like Wycliffe or New Tribes may legitimately require a certain source text or general translation method. However, as soon as they try to control the actual translation effort by the missionary translator they cross the line: setting up rules for the translator on the field as to what national helper to use, mandating a certain format, decreeing what reference books may be used, etc. (I've not researched to what extent Wycliffe does or does not do this.) A mission board should remain just that: an organization to assist the missionary in his ministry and protect the interests of the sending churches.

    Bible societies have the same potential for abuse of the translator. A Bible society provides the funds for the translation effort if needed and the printing, so it has great power. If a Bible society works up a set of rules which the translator must follow on the field in his translation effort, it has crossed the line. For example, in his flawed volume, Word-for-Word Translating of the Received Texts, H. D. Williams gives "77 Criteria for Translating" in what appears to be an appendix (though it is not called that or a chapter). Among those are some reasonable ones, but there are also ridiculous ones, such as limiting what translations the worker may consult, says that there must be an introduction to each book of the Bible at the beginning of that book, etc. etc. If Williams were to run a Bible society that requires such rules, that would be wrong.
     
  5. Mexdeaf

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    I can see your point more clearly now. Thank you for clarifying.
     
  6. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Any time, brother! :wavey:
     
  7. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Next to a translation for profit ruled by a for-profit company, the worst translation effort is probably the one man translation or paraphrase. This is when one man does the translation, the editing, everything. Such a translation has no fail-safe mechanism, and can thus even end up with a heretical rendering if the translator is not extremely careful.

    One such translation in Japanese is the Gendai Yaku ("The Modern Japanese Bible"), done by a pastor and theologian named Oyama. Now Oyama is conservative, has a Ph.D. and is apparently a good man, but he didn't seem to know what he was doing in many places. In his intro. he says that some have told him that his version is dynamic equivalence, but he said he didn't know what that was! His version is a paraphrase, but he could certainly have looked at the original text a lot more. In one place his rendering actually takes the deity of Christ out of a passage!

    The exception to my objection is when the version is done with a specific purpose to be a help and not a main translation, such as Young's Literal or an interlinear. Even Young's gets it wrong quite a lot, though. He could have used an editor. The problem is that when a well-known scholar such as Oyama or Young does a translation, people are afraid to tell him he is wrong. This is especially true in Asia, the land of "saving face."
     
  8. John of Japan

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    I just pulled several one man translations off my shelves to try to illustrate the problems. Looking at Rom. 6 we find:

    6:4--"...we too, who rose with him, are to be employed wholly in the activities of the New Life" (Arthur Way). A translation partner, committee or good editor would have told Way that "walk" is a subjunctive so that it should be "may be" or "might be." Furthermore, someone should have told him that "walk" (Gr. peripateo) mean more than just activities, it means one's way of living.

    Same verse: "...so we too might rise to life on a new plane altogether" (J. B. Phillips). Phillips should have been told that it is the life itself that has newness, so a "new plane" doesn't cut it.

    6:5--"For if we have grown into fellowship with Him by sharing a death like His..." (Charles B. Williams). This is way off. There is nothing about fellowship (Gr. koinonia) in the verse, and a partner or committee or editor could have objected to it. Instead, this is a metaphor, "planted together," which is lost by Williams.
     
  9. Logos1560

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    The one man translation of William Tyndale would seem to be an exception.

    I would not consider William Tyndale's New Testament or his partial Old Testament "the worst translation effort".
     
  10. Rippon

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    Goodspeed :...we too may live a new life

    Richard Lattimore : ...so we too may walk in a renewal of life

    James Moffatt : ...we too might live and move in the new sphere of life

    Weymouth (though not sure because it was revised in places by James Alexander Robertson and others) : ...we also should live an entirely new life

    I don't know how Gerrit Verkuyl translated his original effort of Romans 6:4.
     
  11. Van

    Van
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    2 Corinthians 2:17 uses a word "kapēleuō" which carries two ideas. Someone who peddles an adulterated product for greedy purpose. Thus a wine seller who waters down the wine fits the bill. Spiritually, the idea is someone who waters down God's word, i.e. an ear tickler, to build up the number of followers and thus, to live well in the worldly sense.

    We can contrast this with a workman being worthy, and someone who works hard at teaching others God's word being worthy of double honor, i.e. be well compensated.

    Whether the Calvinist friendly translations (NIV, ESV, NLT) cross the line is debatable but they probably do not rise to the level of "Kapeleuo."

    Rather than setting up the translator or the funding source as final arbitrator, the Bible would suggest they come to a prayerful consensus, allowing the Holy Spirit to lead.

    Thus at the outset, a set of translation guides should be agreed upon, so that the target, something accurate and usable for the targeted language people, is reached.
     
  12. Mexdeaf

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    [hijack] Isn't it amazing how ANYTHING can be turned into a "C" thread here on the BB nowadays.:rolleyes:[/hijack]
     
  13. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    There is an exception to every rule, and Tyndale is it! He was brilliant! :thumbs:
     
    #13 John of Japan, Aug 6, 2013
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  14. John of Japan

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    Are you saying that the translator should not be the final arbitrator of his very own work? That he cannot be the one who decides how to translate? I suggest that while prayer is necessary, God gave the translator brain and an ability which he should use to the glory of God. You don't just pray and "poof" here is the translation. It takes a lot of work, and the funding source almost never has the knowledge or skill to do the translation.
     
  15. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Doing a double translation is a sure way to produce a poor translation. This is when you translate from a translation rather than the original. This applies to either a one-man translation or a committee translation or any other possible system of translation.

    Some years ago a missionary to Japan tried to get a translation started from the KJV into Japanese. Virtually everyone interested in a translation from the received texts refused to cooperate. I was given the first few chapters of John which the man had produced, and took a look. Among other problems, he had transliterated "wine" from the KJV directly into Japanese. However, the modern transliteration of "wine" into Japanese (ワイン) becomes an archaism when used in Japanese. My research says that 1st century oinoV had a wider range of meaning than modern ワイン, but also that ワイン has a much higher alcohol content.

    Another example of the problems with a double translation is the Catholic principle of translating from the Latin Vulgate. This produces some mistaken renderings such as in Gen. 3:15, where the Vulgate has inimicitias (plural accusative) where the Hebrew has a singular. The Douay Version followed this mistake with "enmities."
     
    #15 John of Japan, Aug 7, 2013
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  16. Yeshua1

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    van doesn't yet realise that he has been predestined to play this role on the Board!
     
  17. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Having criticized the double translation, I will add that sometimes that is the only way to produce a translation, especially in missionary work. If the only available translator is not proficient in Greek and Hebrew, the tribe or people group may never have a Bible if they wait for proficient translators. So a double translation is sometimes unavoidable. However, since a translation of just the NT may take a decade or more, it seems like one could educate one's self in Greek during that time, at least enough to guarantee accuracy.
     
  18. Van

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    I am saying what I said. The inability to submit to the authority of a plurality of Elders speaks of pride, not humility.
    Senior Pastors are snared by the same devilish snare. Therefore a thoughtful working agreement is important so that subsequent power struggles are avoided. Again, the basic question is: Is it the Lord's translation or the translator's translation.
     
  19. Rippon

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    You are being nonsensical Van. How are laymen --unfamiliar with the original language or even the target language going to have any meaningful input into the translation process? Prayerful consensus? After each passage is done by the translator (or translators) a group will decide if it is acceptable? Think things out.
     
  20. John of Japan

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    Here is part of what you originally said:
    So, who is it who sets up the "set of translation guides," and who should have final authority over them?
    So, please clarify. You're not making sense to me here. You seem to be saying that a group of "Elders" (church elders like the Presbyterians? older men with wisdom? who?) should run the translation instead of a translator. Is this what you mean? If so, how is this possible unless the elders know both the original and target languages?

    Tell you what, this thread is about ways to do a translation. What might answer my questions best is if you simply tell how you would set things up if you were asked to do a translation. How would the committee be set up? Who would be in charge? What steps would be taken to translate a chapter, say John 3?
     
    #20 John of Japan, Aug 9, 2013
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