Monday, September 29, 2008

Translation Insights from the Nida School 2008

I spent two weeks this month learning in an interdisciplinary intellectual endeavor sponsored by the American Bible Society known as the Nida School for Translation Studies. I was in Misano, Italy from 9/7 to 9/21 where the food is excellent, the ocean view is spectacular, and the mosquitoes are terrible. (The learning experience came at a great cost, however. My blogging inactivity must have led to my getting bumped from Jim West's blogroll. Either that or I was cast aside when he found someone new. I'm very disappointed by this.)

Here are the seven most important insights about Bible translation that I took away from the Nida School 2008.

1. Translation is hard work. It really is impossible to fully translate a text.
2. That's because translation involves making difficult choices.
3. Those choices inevitably involve loss on the balance between form and meaning.
4. There is a high degree of subjectivity involved in making those choices.
5. Translation is an art, not a science.
6. Functional equivalence (or dynamic equivalence) becomes more important when translating the Bible for a non-Western culture. Sensitivity to the target culture is absolutely essential. Western culture was shaped by the Bible. The same categories do not apply to cultures that developed independently of the Bible or Western influence.
7. Many modern theories in Translation Studies involve significant change and adaptation of their source material. That level of change is considered unacceptable for most people involved in translating sacred texts such as the Bible.

My research at the Nida School focused on the strategies that English translations have used to render sexual euphemisms in the Hebrew Bible. I'll summarize my findings in a future post, so you all have something to look forward to.


  1. It's inspiring to hear a young guy zealous for God

  2. I almost didn't publish the above comment. It seemed like an irrelevant statement intended mainly as a vehicle for a blogger's URL. The link is incorrect though, so I decided it was a legitimate attempt at a compliment. So, thanks.

    However, I'm scratching my head over it a bit. While I'm always happy to inspire, my post didn't mention God, didn't indicate any zeal, or give any clue as to my age.