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Translation Theory

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Translation Theory

Postby Geoff » Sun Oct 23, 2005 7:39 pm

There are a number of translation theories and one way is not neccessarily right when contexts are considered. When producing a translation for broad use and study many people believe that there is essentially one theory which is acceptable (incidentally I believe that formal equivanlence is THE translation theory 8) ).

This does not take into account all the different uses of translation. Translation can be a tool for learning Greek, producing reading material from foreign languages, study guides flagging the english reader about foreign peculiarities, etc.

When someone is translating for personal use they need to feel free to translate according to their desires. A person who is wanting to learn greek just to read greek as a supplement to their English study would translated their exercises in a textbook different than someone who wants to learn Greek to study supplementing their English reading. These are just a few scenarios.

The point of bringing this up is that many textbooks advocate pet translation theories apart from considering the needs of the student. Few students are going to join a translation committee any time soon lol. The problem with this is that correcting exercises becomes a frustrating experience in right and wrong. This shouldn't be the approach to a textbook. Some answers are wrong, but others may not be wrong even though they do not match the answer key. Failing to understand this may be a major source of frustration to new students. Look at answers not to discover why yours is wrong, but to ask why theirs is different. Then if you agree with the reasons you have learned about the text, the language, or both. Even the choice of one gloss over another is not neccessarily right or one (though it may be in some contexts). Do not be discouraged, but ask questions.

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Postby Tracy » Mon Oct 24, 2005 3:33 pm

Hmmm... This is no small subject. LOL There are many variables to consider. I had not considered what "camp" I am in, so I read a little online regarding "theories" and from my reading I would say I am in the "literal author oriented approach." The translation of the English bible I use is the New American Standard.

When have we gone from translation to interpretation? IMO, humble or not, many of the translations we have now of the English bible haven't done much but water down the original(s) we do have. If I am correct (and insight or correction is welcomed), the "idiomatic target-oriented approach" of E.A. Nida does (or can do) this with the NIV as an example. Happy or Blessed? If any thought is given to the word happy, then it is recognized that the state of happiness changes with circumstances. This is why we ask others IF they are happy. Yet, blessed is a state that is continual despite circumstances. This is why we can (from a Christian perspective--realizing not all who study Koine may be Christian) remind others of the "joy" or "blessedness" whether or not they are particularly "happy" at that moment; or alternatively have "joy" when we are "unhappy". It's a shift of focus.

Of course, how much of this goes into theology & doctrinal issues, well... you can help me figure it out. LOL

Whether one can "feel free" to translate according to their own desires remains for the most part mute because the fact is they are. Whether they "should" or not is another topic all together and one which will never be won in our lifetime. :)

My goal is, to the best of human ability, to know what the original words of the author was and his intent or communicated message as heard then with hermenutics playing a part in how that should be received now. But in no way do I think the bible should be reworded in translation to reflect the popular thought patterns of today.

Now of course, as others respond, I may be given other things to contemplate, but to date, this is my position.

--Tracy
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Postby Paul » Mon Oct 24, 2005 4:45 pm

Hi,

Speaking as a "guide" who has corrected many translations, I urge study group members to translate "literally". But I do so for mostly selfish reasons; it is difficult to assess a "free translation" for mastery of grammar and lexis.

Yet, I do recognize the ideal expressed by Pound's adage, "Translate what I mean, not what I say.". If Christopher Logue were in one of our Iliad study groups, I might think his translations brilliant but I would certainly find them to be un-gradeable.

Cordially,

Paul

P.S. - I pretty much agree with Tracy's perspective.
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Postby Bert » Tue Oct 25, 2005 12:13 am

When I was a participant of Pharr-a I tried to do my exercises fairly literal so that Paul and Will could see if I understood the text or not.
One of the others was a lot more free. I found his assignments a hoot to read and they were more than likely at least as accurate, but they would have been harder to grade.

I'm not sure of Geoff's question is geared mostly toward the assignments of Mounce-a or translation in general. To be safe, I'll speak about both :) .

For the Mounce group, I would like the translation to be quite literal. If it is hard to make it literal and readable, then add a more idiomatic one in brackets to the literal one.

As for Bible translations, I am leaning toward the NIV and away from the NASB. The NASB is nice for checking my own translation because it sticks closer to the words. It is more likely to translate a participle with a participle etc.
I don't like the practice of putting words in italics if they are 'added' to the text.
If a word is implied in Greek but has to be expressed in English, then that word should not be considered "added" to the text.
Tracy asked:
When have we gone from translation to interpretation?

Translating without interpretation is impossible.
In 1 John 2:10 (...[face=SPIonic]kai\ ska/ndalon e)n au)tw| ou)k e)/stin[/face]...) the translator has to make a choice whether to translate au)tw| as 'in him' or 'in it'. (Usually they pick a reasonable happy medium by putting one in a footnote.)
certainly there are examples of poor translating to be found in any translation but I am leaning toward saying in English what the writer wanted to say in Greek.
We read the Bible at mealtimes. I remember one time after I had read a piece (out loud) that one of my kids said: "Don't stop there Dad, keep on going." I wonder if she would have that reaction if I had read from the NASB or the KJV.
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What the writer meant to say...

Postby Tracy » Tue Oct 25, 2005 2:05 pm

I'm thinking...

Paul wrote 2/3rds of the NT and was highly educated. I'm curious as to why we would think he did not mean what he said or did not know how to say what he meant? There are times where the honesty of Paul shows through and he states that whether it is him or God instructing through him he wasn't sure... but most of the time this isn't the case, so IF it is inspired by God, wouldn't the words be exactly what was placed in Paul's kardia at the time of writing?

Since Paul wrote so much, his style is recognized. There are places where, although he is obviously familiar with one word (using it in other places), he choses not to use it in another instance. Isn't this again another example that perhaps he did know and say what he meant?

Now today we may have difficulty in saying what we mean and meaning what we say. LOL Let's face it, education in the USA has been failing for ages and most media outlets are geared for the 3rd grade mentality. In addition, English isn't a very exact language--one word for love, 3 possible uses for the word 'post' (fence post, post a letter and Post cereal).

And then the question comes too: Are we translating what we think the author meant or what we wish the author said and meant? As I've learned it, the Bible can be quite racey and the KJV cleans up quite a bit of what some of the writers actually said. For some they could not even begin to believe that that is what the author would say--under the idea that it wouldn't be "Christian". Others would perhaps scream blasphemy. LOL And I suspect there won't be any teaching in churches this Sunday from the LXX version of the Song of Solomon. LOL

Instead of finding an easier version for my kids, I've opted to keep the level right where it was and have longer conversations with them. I found once we began talking and they were made an interactive part of the conversation there was more on their mind than the initial query. We are a communicative family. :-) I want for them what I want for me... not just that they know, but understand what they know and why.

Either way, I do enjoy this topic and greatly appreciate the time you all are taking out of your personal lives to guide the rest of us in our learning of this language.

--Tracy
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Re: What the writer meant to say...

Postby Bert » Tue Oct 25, 2005 10:46 pm

Tracy wrote:I'm thinking...

Paul wrote 2/3rds of the NT and was highly educated. I'm curious as to why we would think he did not mean what he said or did not know how to say what he meant? There are times where the honesty of Paul shows through and he states that whether it is him or God instructing through him he wasn't sure... but most of the time this isn't the case, so IF it is inspired by God, wouldn't the words be exactly what was placed in Paul's kardia at the time of writing?
Oh, certainly Paul wrote what he meant to say in Greek. The chalange of a translator is to convert that to English. By being determined to stay quite literal, you (or whoever) may actually not bring the same message in English.
Tracy wrote:
Since Paul wrote so much, his style is recognized. There are places where, although he is obviously familiar with one word (using it in other places), he choses not to use it in another instance. Isn't this again another example that perhaps he did know and say what he meant?

Now today we may have difficulty in saying what we mean and meaning what we say. LOL Let's face it, education in the USA has been failing for ages and most media outlets are geared for the 3rd grade mentality. In addition, English isn't a very exact language--one word for love, 3 possible uses for the word 'post' (fence post, post a letter and Post cereal).
In translation we can't just replace a Greek word, regardless of where it occurs, with the same English word. The context has a large impact on the meaning of a word, in Greek as well as in English. If that wasn't the case, the lexicons (lexica) could be a lot smaller.
Tracy wrote:And then the question comes too: Are we translating what we think the author meant or what we wish the author said and meant? As I've learned it, the Bible can be quite racey and the KJV cleans up quite a bit of what some of the writers actually said. For some they could not even begin to believe that that is what the author would say--under the idea that it wouldn't be "Christian". Others would perhaps scream blasphemy. LOL And I suspect there won't be any teaching in churches this Sunday from the LXX version of the Song of Solomon. LOL

It definitely is a challange to write in English what the author said in Greek and not what you would have written. :)

Tracy wrote:Instead of finding an easier version for my kids, I've opted to keep the level right where it was and have longer conversations with them.

Hey hey, are you saying that just because the English is more contemporary English, the level has dropped? If you are, I'll just have to bite the bullet and disagree with you. So there. I did it. :)
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Re: What the writer meant to say...

Postby Tracy » Wed Oct 26, 2005 5:59 pm

[quote="Bert"]

Oh, certainly Paul wrote what he meant to say in Greek. The chalange of a translator is to convert that to English. By being determined to stay quite literal, you (or whoever) may actually not bring the same message in English.

I agree regarding the challenge to the translator. We owe a great debt to those over the ages that have sought to convey the message of the Bible in other languages.

Now, I'll refer to my prior example. Happy or Blessed? Is the word 'happy' conveying the same message? There are many bible readers out there who think that because another individual is going through some trying time and is unhappy, that they are not blessed--that proof of being blessed is a troubleless, happy life--that one must have done something to fall from a blessed state.

In translation we can't just replace a Greek word, regardless of where it occurs, with the same English word. The context has a large impact on the meaning of a word, in Greek as well as in English. If that wasn't the case, the lexicons (lexica) could be a lot smaller.

Could you clarify or give an example of what you mean by the same English word? I agree regarding context being maintained, but using the same word doesn't necessarily mean a loss of context. Unfortunately, we do not have some of the same words in English that there are in Greek. So, I understand what you are saying there. But why (for example) do we translate the vb. pisteo (ou?) with 'faith' in one instance and 'belief' in another? If we merely added our suffixes to the English word, we would have the correct meaning in English and keep to the intent of the author? Now, if it is okay for Rap music and its made-up language to be added to dictionaries why aren't biblical scholars and translators stepping up to the plate as well? Belief, as the meaning is understood, wouldn't have sufficed for the Isaelites coming out of Egypt, or any of the ill Christ healed. Mental assent wasn't enough. How could we convey that in writing? Aren't we going to need to explain at some point what was meant either way? So why change the wording to a different word altogether?

It definitely is a challange to write in English what the author said in Greek and not what you would have written. :)

Agreed.

Hey hey, are you saying that just because the English is more contemporary English, the level has dropped? If you are, I'll just have to bite the bullet and disagree with you. So there. I did it. :)

No, I am saying that the level of education received by a majority of Americans is poor at best (including myself when viewed in hindsight) and because of this the ability to understand anything above a 3rd to 5th grade level is nearly impossible. This being *my* thinking explains the need for more remedial (watered down) versions of the bible. There are some great versions, some adequate versions and then some really bad bad bad versions out there :) The thought of comtemporary English reminds me of a joke about a priests first mass. He was encouraged to sip from the sacramental wine to ease his nervous. Later the monsignor said,"Next time sip--not gulp. There were 12 apostles not 10 and there were 10 commandments not 12. And we do not refer to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit as, 'Big Daddy, Junior and the Spook.'" :lol:
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Re: What the writer meant to say...

Postby Bert » Wed Oct 26, 2005 11:55 pm

Tracy wrote: Now, I'll refer to my prior example. Happy or Blessed? Is the word 'happy' conveying the same message? There are many bible readers out there who think that because another individual is going through some trying time and is unhappy, that they are not blessed--that proof of being blessed is a troubleless, happy life--that one must have done something to fall from a blessed state.

I agree with your general drift but I don't know which text(s) you are refering to so I can't say much more than that.

Tracy wrote:
In translation we can't just replace a Greek word, regardless of where it occurs, with the same English word. The context has a large impact on the meaning of a word, in Greek as well as in English. If that wasn't the case, the lexicons (lexica) could be a lot smaller.

Could you clarify or give an example of what you mean by the same English word? I agree regarding context being maintained, but using the same word doesn't necessarily mean a loss of context. Unfortunately, we do not have some of the same words in English that there are in Greek. So, I understand what you are saying there. But why (for example) do we translate the vb. pisteo (ou?) with 'faith' in one instance and 'belief' in another? If we merely added our suffixes to the English word, we would have the correct meaning in English and keep to the intent of the author? Now, if it is okay for Rap music and its made-up language to be added to dictionaries why aren't biblical scholars and translators stepping up to the plate as well? Belief, as the meaning is understood, wouldn't have sufficed for the Isaelites coming out of Egypt, or any of the ill Christ healed. Mental assent wasn't enough. How could we convey that in writing? Aren't we going to need to explain at some point what was meant either way? So why change the wording to a different word altogether?
Why change the wording? because context suggests it.
pi/stis can mean the conviction of something (faith) but also the content of this conviction (belief). And it can also mean faithfulness.
If we were to substitute 'faith' for 'belief', there would be no harm done.
It would not cause any confusion. However you can't realy substitute faith for faithfulness even though they come from the same Greek word.

Tracy wrote:Hey hey, are you saying that just because the English is more contemporary English, the level has dropped? If you are, I'll just have to bite the bullet and disagree with you. So there. I did it. :)

No, I am saying that the level of education received by a majority of Americans is poor at best (including myself when viewed in hindsight) and because of this the ability to understand anything above a 3rd to 5th grade level is nearly impossible. This being *my* thinking explains the need for more remedial (watered down) versions of the bible. There are some great versions, some adequate versions and then some really bad bad bad versions out there :) The thought of comtemporary English reminds me of a joke about a priests first mass. He was encouraged to sip from the sacramental wine to ease his nervous. Later the monsignor said,"Next time sip--not gulp. There were 12 apostles not 10 and there were 10 commandments not 12. And we do not refer to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit as, 'Big Daddy, Junior and the Spook.'" :lol:

I see what you mean. Both overly literal, and overly free translations are useless.
We are between the two extremes, I am just a little farther from the literal end of the scale than you are.
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Re: What the writer meant to say...

Postby Tracy » Thu Oct 27, 2005 2:32 pm

Bert wrote:
Tracy wrote: Now, I'll refer to my prior example. Happy or Blessed? Is the word 'happy' conveying the same message? There are many bible readers out there who think that because another individual is going through some trying time and is unhappy, that they are not blessed--that proof of being blessed is a troubleless, happy life--that one must have done something to fall from a blessed state.

I agree with your general drift but I don't know which text(s) you are refering to so I can't say much more than that.

First a clarification. The Living Bible's use of 'happy' for 'blessed' in Matthew's, "blessed are the poor[...]" (Then there is the whole subject of whether 'poor' is an adequate enough word to convey the message... :) )
I looked at my copy (which fortunately I only paid $2 for at my local library's annual book sale...LOL) and on the cover it was titled 'The Living Bible (and beneath) Paraphrased'.

Tracy wrote:
In translation we can't just replace a Greek word, regardless of where it occurs, with the same English word. The context has a large impact on the meaning of a word, in Greek as well as in English. If that wasn't the case, the lexicons (lexica) could be a lot smaller.

Could you clarify or give an example of what you mean by the same English word? I agree regarding context being maintained, but using the same word doesn't necessarily mean a loss of context. Unfortunately, we do not have some of the same words in English that there are in Greek. So, I understand what you are saying there. But why (for example) do we translate the vb. pisteo (ou?) with 'faith' in one instance and 'belief' in another? If we merely added our suffixes to the English word, we would have the correct meaning in English and keep to the intent of the author? Now, if it is okay for Rap music and its made-up language to be added to dictionaries why aren't biblical scholars and translators stepping up to the plate as well? Belief, as the meaning is understood, wouldn't have sufficed for the Isaelites coming out of Egypt, or any of the ill Christ healed. Mental assent wasn't enough. How could we convey that in writing? Aren't we going to need to explain at some point what was meant either way? So why change the wording to a different word altogether?
Why change the wording? because context suggests it.
pi/stis can mean the conviction of something (faith) but also the content of this conviction (belief). And it can also mean faithfulness.
If we were to substitute 'faith' for 'belief', there would be no harm done.
It would not cause any confusion. However you can't realy substitute faith for faithfulness even though they come from the same Greek word.

Could we substitute the word "faith-ing" or "faith-ed"?

Tracy wrote:Hey hey, are you saying that just because the English is more contemporary English, the level has dropped? If you are, I'll just have to bite the bullet and disagree with you. So there. I did it. :)

No, I am saying that the level of education received by a majority of Americans is poor at best (including myself when viewed in hindsight) and because of this the ability to understand anything above a 3rd to 5th grade level is nearly impossible. This being *my* thinking explains the need for more remedial (watered down) versions of the bible. There are some great versions, some adequate versions and then some really bad bad bad versions out there :) The thought of comtemporary English reminds me of a joke about a priests first mass. He was encouraged to sip from the sacramental wine to ease his nervous. Later the monsignor said,"Next time sip--not gulp. There were 12 apostles not 10 and there were 10 commandments not 12. And we do not refer to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit as, 'Big Daddy, Junior and the Spook.'" :lol:

I see what you mean. Both overly literal, and overly free translations are useless.
We are between the two extremes, I am just a little farther from the literal end of the scale than you are.


My concern is when the translation contradicts the understanding of the author.

I wanted to ask: Someone (Geoff?) in the first post said different translations are used for different things. Could he or anyone enlighten me on this (i.e. this translation works for this and that one works for that)?

I did some contemplating last night about what another poster said--that it is impossible to translate without interpreting. It is difficult to disagree with this statement.

I went to my dictionary and looked up the words: a) translate, b)interpret, and c) paraphrase.

a) to turn into one's own or another language; to transfer or turn one set of symbols into another 8)
b) to express in more comprehensible terms 8) ; to explain or tell the meaning of:present in understandable terms :? ; to conceive in the light of individual belief, judgement or circumstance :(
c) to express in different terms & esp. different words :( ; a restatement of a text, passage or work :x

Being Greek is incomprehensible for English readers, I found this definition of interpret to be part of translating and agree with the comment that it is impossible to have one without the other, but *for me* when we start getting into the "explaining" is where the concern lies that we may be (knowingly or unknowingly) inserting our own doctrinal positions and not really conveying the literal message of the author as displayed in his total works. Then when I think about a "restatement".... WHOA!! No way! The childhood game of Telephone--what was said becomes more screwed up the further down the line it goes. :)

Aren't commentaries for explaining?

--Tracy

P.S. Thank you for your patience with me.
And yes, I have memorized the first paradigm. :-) Now IF I can only get it into the program the right way... :cry:
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Postby Skylax » Fri Oct 28, 2005 2:43 pm

Hi All !

The question about "formal equivalence" vs "idiomatic equivalence" is clearly posed here and thoroughly discussed here.

Moreover, in reading this topic I felt the urge to clarify my ideas over language in general, aiming at a better understanding of translation problems.

A. Any language is an inherently imperfect system

Indeed, there are always two contradictory principles at work :
1. Linguistic economy principle (least-effort principle). Not that we are particularly lazy, but it is sometimes of vital interest to communicate with the fewest possible words ("Fire !").
Hence also the fact that the same word can have different meanings ("semantic field"). From this view, the vocabulary of the most economic language would have only one world. It does exist : it is the language of the Smurfs (a Belgian finding, btw) : "Smurf, Smurf, I would smurf some smurf with my smurf !"
Also, any language is allusive. A sentence seldom expresses all the information needed to understand the meaning ("700 on mine" were the last words of an astronaut before his ship exploded. It was about the reading of an onboard instrument)
2. Clarity principle "Please, Sir?" is the limit... Clarity does not emerge from single words (see above), but mostly from phrases that can be appreciately long.

B. Any language implies its own interpretation of reality

French uses many substantives, it sees the reality as a well compartmentalizeded whole of well fixed things, while other languages use more verbs, so emphasizing processes... [face=SPIonic]To/con[/face] in Greek means "bow and arrow"...

C. Any language is linked to a certain historical moment, a certain state of society

For this reason I understand better English translations of Greek texts that originals in Greek, although I have studied Greek with great interest for more than 40 years and I have never learned English formally. But the translation authors are today's men (even if they lived in the 1870s).

D. A speaker does not speak only about the outside world in a technical way

He speaks also about himself : his position in relationship with the person he is speaking to, his emotions... Hence we use different levels of language according to the subject, the situation... Language can also be used as a weapon, to dominate other men, humiliate them and so on...

With all that in mind, I think we can better appreciate problems arising when we try to translate a text.

[face=SPIonic]xai/rete[/face]
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