Re: Evangelicals and dynamic equivalence
incMon, 09 May 1994 23:27:50 -0500 (CDT) you said:
>James Sennett writes: "there is no such thing as paraphrase.
>There is only good translation and bad translation." I find myself at least
>somewhat prepared to agree to this notion, but I still wish to ask, again: Then
>what properties distinguish a good translation from a bad translation?
With fear and trembling I edge my way back out onto the limb:without benefit of
such theories as dynamic equivalence or others, I venture my own considered
but unscientific view of this matter.
A good translation is one that conveys the sense of the original text in the
target language clearly and intelligibly, not necessarily in a construction
that imitates that of the original text in its own language, but in the
"appropriate" idiom of the target language. What the "appropriate" idiom is
may depend on the use to which the translation is to be put (as in the case of
a Biblical text one might distinguish use for liturgical reading, for private
devotional use, for intense and careful study, etc.). A better translation will
also reproduce, insofar as possible, the impact of rhetorical devices discerned
in the original text in the target language. I would add that translation tends
to be idiosyncratic, and for this reason it is probably advisable that the
advice of a committee of scholars be employed in the authorization of a good
translation. (On the other hand, there's something to be said for idiosyncratic
translations, so long as one does not rely solely upon them.) I would add
furthermore what has been repeatedly injected into our discussion here, that
translation cannot be free from interpretation, and in this regard also the
advice of a committee would seem to be extremely valuable. In the case of a
Biblical text, an advisory committee probably ought to reflect the whole theo-
logical spectrum in order to guard against sectarian bias unduly affecting the
interpretive aspect of the translation.
A bad translation is one that, intentionally or not, distorts the discernible
sense of the original text and so misleads, intentionally or not, the reader
who must depend on the translation for understanding the original text.
I think I would probably agree that there is not a real difference between a
translation and a paraphrase, unless by "translation" one means a word-for-
word reconstruction of the original text in the target language, in which case
the "translation" is likely to be more a parody of the original than a serious
attempt to reproduce the sense of the original. It would seem that the term
paraphrase is most often used to refer to the translations that one, for one
reason or another, doesn't approve of.
We surely must recognize that all translation involves interpretation, and
that, since interpretation is so subject to personal bias, there needs to be
a check or control over this. There are also degrees of competence in the
original and target languages and, unfortunately, there are occasionally dis-
putes over the understanding of a grammatical construction. That's why we have
to rely on a committee--and, in the case of Biblical texts, it's probably why
we have to keep doing it over and over, producing fresh translations over the
course of decades and centuries.
There remain, of course, the questions that are still unresolved from this
ongoing debate over how words and phrases can best be conveyed across a
cultural chasm from the original text and language to the target language and
cultural context. I doubt that consensus is likely to be reached on this, even
if it is on other points in the distinction between good and bad translation.
CARL W. CONRAD, C25001CC@WUVMD.BITNET OR C25001CC@WUVMD.WUSTL.EDU
Classics, Washington University, One Brookings Dr., St. Louis, MO 63130
Phone: (314) 935-4018
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