what is hardest known language to translate bible into?

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by Yeshua1, Feb 19, 2014.

  1. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2012
    Messages:
    17,023
    Likes Received:
    47
    of all the various ones translated now, what language would be hardest to get into bible?
     
  2. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    Japanese is considered by many to be the most difficult written language in the world:

    1. Two (count 'em!) syllable alphabets, each 46 characters.
    2. Over 2000 Chinese characters, some with up to 20 different pronunciations. (Chinese only has one way to say each character.)
    3. Thousands of loan words from Chinese, English and other languages.
    4. A vertical society with various different levels of politeness.
    5. Classical, literary and colloquial versions of the language.
     
    #2 John of Japan, Feb 20, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 20, 2014
  3. Squire Robertsson

    Squire Robertsson
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    Administrator

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2000
    Messages:
    9,625
    Likes Received:
    310
    Russian is fairly close behind. For one, it doesn't have definite\indefinite articles or the verb to be (is\are) in the present tense.
     
  4. JonC

    JonC
    Expand Collapse
    Lifelong Disciple
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2001
    Messages:
    6,920
    Likes Received:
    366
    Would it then be the difficultly of the host language, or are concepts easier to translate from the Greek into other languages? I guess what I am asking is that if you knew the native language intimately, and knew the biblical language intimately, would Japanese be the hardest language due to the constraints of the language. In some ways it seems that a less articulate language would prove more difficult...but I am not a translator and I barely know English (which is my 1st and only language) so I don't count on my reasoning.
     
  5. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    Japanese also has no articles, as well as no infinitives and no participles, and no true future tense.
     
    #5 John of Japan, Feb 20, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 20, 2014
  6. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    I think I get what you are saying. The OP spoke of languages "translated now," which I took to mean languages already with a written language.

    To me, the most difficult task in all in the field of Bible translation is that of the tribal translator, who before even beginning his or her translation must decipher the grammar and semantics (meanings), write their own dictionary and grammar book, learn the spoken literature (stories passed down) and finally begin to translate.

    Having said that, once the above is all finished, the target language may be comparatively simple or it may be difficult. That is, the actual translation work may be comparatively easy. An early translation of the Bible was into Old Church Slavonic, which happened to be extremely similar to Greek. Along that line, Chinese has a similar sentence structure to English. However, a tribal language may be very difficult in structure. (Being tribal does not make it a primitive language.)
     
  7. JonC

    JonC
    Expand Collapse
    Lifelong Disciple
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2001
    Messages:
    6,920
    Likes Received:
    366
    I am not sure that my next question will be coherent (if not, just ignore). But I’ll ask anyway. Do you find that it is necessary to create words (somehow symbolize ideas) to represent biblical truths in a meaningful form in the native language? The reason that I ask is that I was wondering about languages that do not naturally represent ideas that are expressed in the biblical language (I do realize the inadequacy that English poses to express biblical language). I am thinking of how many English speaking people (myself included) desire a word for word translation when the language does not necessarily have the vocabulary to accommodate such a translation.
     
  8. preachinjesus

    preachinjesus
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2004
    Messages:
    7,406
    Likes Received:
    99
    From what I've heard, mostly from Wycliffe friends or other Bible translation missionary types, Oriental languages are the hardest. JoJ has given some great information here.

    One other language that is very hard is Navajo.
     
  9. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    Fortunately, Protestant Christianity has been in Japan for 150 years, so the needed theological terms are not only already in Japanese, sometimes we have a couple of different choices, and the dictionaries will list them and note that they are "Christian terms." In fact, I have three Japanese-English theological dictionaries.

    These theological terms are often unknown to the general non-Christian public, so the lost Japanese or new Christian gives the meaning to the word as explained by the missionary. I've often been able to explain "righteousness" (義) to a lost Japanese, giving it the Bible meaning by explaining the "radicals" (elements) of the character.

    English is a different ball game, with some new translations inventing new terms or phrases the translators think explain the meaning better. I'm ambivalent about this, but I will note that the general American populace is more and more heathen, allowing the pastor and believers to explain the term Biblically and correctly to lost Americans, just as I can to lost Japanese.

    Unwritten tribal languages are where your point has the most meaning. I believe that in such languages, rather than using a phrase to translate as in some efforts, a new word should be coined, maybe even a loan word transliterated from Hebrew or Greek or English. The advantage to this is that the word is originally neutral to the tribal people, allowing it to receive the correct theological meaning as taught by the missionary.
     
  10. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    Asian languages (and Amer-Indian languages such as Navajo) are in different language families than the usual Indo-European languages Americans are most used to (Greek, Spanish, French, German, even Bengali), so they are usually completely different from English in grammar.
     
  11. Salty

    Salty
    Expand Collapse
    20,000 Posts Club
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2003
    Messages:
    22,083
    Likes Received:
    218
  12. prophet

    prophet
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    2
  13. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    Jive is a dialect of English. So it would be a different ball of wax than normal English. A stiff upper lip would be needed to translate it. I think the translator would have to work like a dog to get it done, but it would be as fun as a barrel of monkeys.
     
  14. prophet

    prophet
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    2
    Kick that bobo to a brutha.
     
  15. Squire Robertsson

    Squire Robertsson
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    Administrator

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2000
    Messages:
    9,625
    Likes Received:
    310
    That's why I nominated Russian for near\far\distant second.
     
  16. Jerome

    Jerome
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Messages:
    5,607
    Likes Received:
    44
    Old Church Slavonic. Interesting.
    How then could its close relative Russian even be considered among the most remote?
     
  17. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    OCS was a 9th century language, and the Russian language has developed quite a bit since then. However, Russian is still an Indo-European language, meaning any Asian language (outside of Indian Sanskrit types) will be quite a bit harder to translate into than Russian. I don't think Russian would be one of the most difficult to translate into, personally, even within the Indo-European family.
     
  18. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    Indubitably.
     
  19. prophet

    prophet
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    2
    Ain't no thang but a chicken wing!
     
  20. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    Indisputably.
     

Share This Page

Loading...