Tuesday, January 5, 2010

5 views of translation

  • All translation is a commentary on the original. The purpose of a translation is to help someone understand the original in line with how one would read a commentary (call this the Jewish / Muslim position).
  • Translation is an attempt to capture the ideas of the original. Because ideas don't exist in a vacuum one needs to quite often make the translation less accurate so as to avoid "misunderstandings" which are a result of the new host language and / or come from lack of context (call this the Lutheran position).
  • Translation is an attempt to capture the ideas and/or the wording of the original as understood by the church historically. Word level accuracy is to be considered preferable to phrasal accuracy but not at the expense of creating ambiguity regarding ancient heresies (call this the Conservative Protestant position).
  • Translation should aim for the most accurate rendering possible at some predetermined unchanging level, be it word, phrase or paragraph. While church history can influence between otherwise equal choices the original should be held as superior to the understanding of the church (call this the Liberal Protestant position).
  • Translation should aim to capture as best as possible the original intent of the writer as it would have been understood by contemporaneous readers. Word level accuracy should only give way to phrase level when absolutely needed to avoid problems in the new host language. Church history is likely to distort the original understanding and we need to deconstruct the translational tradition to find where "Orthodox corruption" in meaning has occurred. (call this the New school position).