The Dongola Times

(Anachronistic) Dispatches from the Kingdom of Makuria.
20th of June, 2013

Attack of the Untutored Translators

From the Digital Bible Society, here you go:

Recent challenges in the Bible Translation world have prompted a major paradigm shift in some two hundred years of practice. Some of those challenges include world globalization, doctrinal controversies and subsequent funding challenges, the emergence of English as the international business language, massive movements of immigrant populations and the digital revolution.

One of the questions that continues to be asked is: Is it possible that untrained multi-lingual speakers are more suited to translate the Bible into their heart language than professional translators – that seek to immerse themselves in a particular language before translating?

Early in 2012, the Seed Company sponsored an unusual Bible translation project in the India state of West Bengal. The idea was to test whether a crowd of Indian nationals could expediently do a suitable translation of the gospel of Luke from Hindi into their mother tongue Angika. There are some 740,000 Angika speakers who do not have a Bible in their native language. The results were impressive and are included at the end of this document.

The truth, of course, is that the Bible is read by normal people; people who speak and understand the colloquial version of the language in question. There is no need—and it may even be counter-productive—to use the formal, high-register dialects of the language.

“Ah,” one says, “What if the correct meaning of the sentence is not transmitted, due to the untutored mistakes of the non-professional translator?” Well, the massive miscarriages of Christianity’s history were under the watchful eye of professionals who were nevertheless unable to stop the problems. Indeed, a whole heresy was born out of a mistranslation of what the angel said to Mary, for instance; but that is nothing at all compared to the fact that Christianity recovered from it without recovering (as yet) from rebellion against the clear Grace principles that were preserved even in the worst Latin translations.

We probably should not over-meditate what we shall write, when doing a translation; God will say what has to be said. Personally, that is why I am interested in the Colloquial Translation.