Looking for guidelines to assess Bible translations
Thread poster: Chris Lovelace

Chris Lovelace  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 12:42
Russian to English
+ ...
Jun 21, 2013

I am preparing to attend a workshop on assessing Bible translation projects.

What resources are available online for me to acquaint myself with the relevant literature?

Thank you in advance for any help.


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Yael Ramon  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 17:42
German to Hebrew
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try this link: http://biblos.com Jun 21, 2013

this is almost the most accurate, comprehensive, easy to use i ever saw.
it has practically all languages, all books, lots of versions.
enjoy.


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:42
German to English
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What do you want to assess? Jun 21, 2013

There are many different criteria that can be applied:
- Accuracy at the word/sentence level
- Cultural adequacy
- Readability
- Doctrinal/philosophical approach of the translators
- Use for detailed word studies or for rapid reading of the narrative
- To what extent does the translation promote faith (and what sort of faith)?
- Level of language (theoretically academic vs. vernacular)
- Ancient "venerable" language (e.g. King James) or lively and modern?
- Denominational alignment in some translations

I realise that these criteria partly overlap, and also that there are other possible criteria. But there is no quick and easy answer to how to assess a Bible translation.
And of course, many of these criteria can also be applied to translation work in general. Which reminds me, I need to get back to today's projects (a submission to a court in a legal dispute and a study of a company's marketing performance).


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:42
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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Agree with Victor Jun 21, 2013

Chris Lovelace wrote:
I am preparing to attend a workshop on assessing Bible translation projects.


When I first read your post, I googled for it and found some interesting sites, but even before I read the materials from the internet, my first thought was (as Victor's): what criteria will be assessed?

Is the workshop about assessing the translation *projects* or about assessing the *translations*? And, if it is about assessing the translations, is it about assessing the translations themselves (i.e. how accurate the translations are) or about assessing elements such as suitability for a specific target buyer group?


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Chris Lovelace  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 12:42
Russian to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Criteria Jun 21, 2013

I will be helping translators to insure that their translations communicate what is in the Greek (UBS4) and Hebrew (BHS) texts of the Bible.

The translators generally do not know Greek and Hebrew, so they translate from English into their mother tongue.

My role will be to advise translators on the contents of the Greek and Hebrew "originals," and they will adjust their translations accordingly to make sure that they reflect the original as closely as possible.

In this case, I will not know the target language. Basically, I will be using a back translation into English, perhaps given orally by the translators.

So, I'm quite blind in this process. It would help me to read some articles or books that point out typical problems in translation, both general and biblical.

I suspect that I will have to be careful with words that are highly culture-soecific, like "priest," "king," "temple," etc. in order to make sure that the terms selected in the target language do not introduce unwanted nuances. For instance, the translation should avoid translating a biblical "priest" (cohen/ierus) as "shaman."


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:42
German to English
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Cultural adequacy Jun 21, 2013

In the type of context you describe, the possible pitfalls for cultural adequacy in the translation cover much more than the "heavyweight" social and theological terms such as king, temple, priest. In some cultures, a relatively simple term such as "sheep" may cause bewilderment, to say nothing of concepts such as sacrifices, family roles, employment concepts (day labourer, slave etc.).
I believe Wycliffe Bible Translators regularly come across such cultural problems, and I am sure you could ask them about books, magazine articles etc. explaining how they have tackled them. You could also ask the Bible Societies in various countries whether they have any experience of cultural challenges in Bible translation.
In general, translating the Greek and Hebrew scriptures into indigenous languages, especially if they have an isolated cultural tradition, will involve a high degree of cultural adaptation, and you will probably need to compromise on closeness to the original in many cases. This will mean that you will have to make value judgements on which parts of the message are essential, and which parts of the message were the cultural vehicle for the original readers and need to be adapted to the culture of the new target readers.
I hope you will find an approach which will help your translation team to convey the message of the Bible in such a way that the indigenous readers will be able to understand it.


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Chris Lovelace  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 12:42
Russian to English
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Looking for Resources besides Wycliffe Jun 21, 2013

Thank you, Victor.

The assignment is for a Wycliffe affiliate. They will be sending some resources, but I am pressed for time. I'm looking for anything that I can find until I get whatever they send.


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:42
German to English
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On the web, or as e-books Jun 21, 2013

Perhaps Wycliffe or the Bible Societies have some stuff on the web or in e-book format. And whatever your urgent short-term need, I am sure that a project like this will continue in the long term (after all, it's a BIIIIIGGGG translation job!)

I would guess that one important step in the review process is taking the first translation draft and asking selected native speakers whether there are any possible misunderstandings, or perhaps the translator guessing where problems may be and asking native speakers what they actually think of when they hear this or that word or concept.

In a translation job across such widely different cultural traditions, there are far more ways of getting the wrong end of the stick than you or I with our Western Christian socialisation can imagine. In other words, you will probably fall into some of the pitfalls however hard you try, so the task is to develop research and questioning methods to discover as many as possible.


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:42
German to English
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Literature on the web Jun 21, 2013

Martin Luther wrote a treatise on his Bible translation, which is available in German and English at
http://www.bible-researcher.com/luther01.html
(I only know the German version of the treatise, so this is just a Google result).
He is pretty passionate about some things and rather unkind to his critics, but it is an interesting read.
There is a modern academic appraisal of Luther's work as a Bible translator here:
http://www.auss.info/auss_publication_file.php?pub_id=679&journal=1&type=pdf

You could probably find similar texts on many other translations in other languages via Google. And a Google search for "Bible translation principles" (in quotes) will give you plenty of reading material.


[Edited at 2013-06-21 16:52 GMT]


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Chris Lovelace  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 12:42
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Luther's Comments Are Interesting Jun 22, 2013

Thank you, Victor. Luther's comments are interesting. He does like to attack his opponents rather viciously, doesn't he? However, this seems typical of scholars in Luther's day.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:42
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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Translating metaphors Jun 22, 2013

Chris,

I find strategies of translating metaphors interesting:
http://scholar.sun.ac.za/handle/10019.1/70377

Other issues to keep in mind are racism and stereotype:
http://repository.up.ac.za/handle/2263/11251
(this article is in Afrikaans, but the Google Translation is quite readable -- some nice examples in it)

A particular interesting translation is the Afrikaans translation for deaf people, but unfortunately I can't find good resources about it on the web right now. The publisher ran into difficulties of low demand, and then simply rebranded it as an "accessability" translation (essentially for children and second-language speakers), and now it is selling nicely, named "The Bible for Everyone" instead of "The Bible for the Deaf".


[Edited at 2013-06-22 08:14 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 13:42
English to Portuguese
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A whole flock of versions Jun 22, 2013

Here:
http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/
... you have a whole flock of online/downloadable versions into many languages.

This page of theirs:
http://www.biblegateway.com/keyword/
... will enable you to search in any of them by keywords.


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Chris Lovelace  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 12:42
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Avoiding Racism in Translation Jun 22, 2013

Samuel Murray wrote:

Other issues to keep in mind are racism and stereotype:
http://repository.up.ac.za/handle/2263/11251
(this article is in Afrikaans, but the Google Translation is quite readable -- some nice examples in it)



Quite true, Samuel.

When I was working in Ukraine, we found that the older translation of the Bible into Ukrainian used the word "zhid" for "Jew."

Traditionally, this was the correct word to refer to a Jewish person, and many older Ukrainians used the term without any indication of ethnic bias.

However, in the last 50-100 years or so, the term shifted in Ukrainian to take on an anti-Semitic connotation. The preferred term in MODERN Ukrainian for a Jewish person is "Yevrei."

On one occasion, a church in the United States paid a great sum of money to print Scripture booklets and ship them to Ukraine. Without consulting anyone beforehand, they assumed that the oldest translation must be the best. So, as a result, all of their booklets were full of language that was considered anti-Semitic by modern speakers of Ukrainian.


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