Re: A Fork In the Road

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Sat Oct 18 1997 - 11:59:13 EDT

A. Brent Hudson wrote,

<A translation must find a balance between representing the host language
<accurately and maintaining good style in the receptor languages. Ignorance
<of the usage of either language will inevitably lead to misunderstanding
<for the reader. All English translations have one common target group --
<readers of English. Regardless of how fine one wants to dissect this
<general group, its principle characteristic (i.e., English language) would
<seem to require well written English. It seems the issue always falls on
<those who would tip the balance in favour of Greek (hyper-literal) and
<those who move in the other direction (periphrastic renderings). I think
<the first thing to acknowledge is that any translation is inevitably a
<linguistic compromise. Once that is acknowledged, it is just a matter of
<deciding which compromises one is willing to make. But since they *are* all
<compromises, personally, I tend not to get worked up about it very much

<Edward Hobbs had a great post not too long ago. He noted that our goal as
<students of Greek is to understand this language on its own terms. For me,
<choosing the translation 'Anointed one' over the transliteration 'Christ'
<or 'riddle' over 'parable' is less important than understanding AGGELOS and
<PARABOLH in their native contexts; for until that is done, translation will
<have its greatest hindrance in the very mind of the translator.

Dear Brent,

I see a need to define the phrase "target group" because we use it in
different senses. Your comment that "All English translations have one
common target group - readers of English" is true if we use "target group"
in a loose non-technical sense. If we use translation terminology there are
ten or more different target groups for translations into English. The
choice of style of a translation depends on the target group and may be
Officialese, Official, Formal, Neutral, Informal, Colloquial, Slang and

Peter Newmark, 1988, "A Textbook of Translation" who discuss general
translation, lists (p 45) four kinds of translations with emphasis on the
source language: (1) Word-for-word-translation, (2) Literal translation,
(2) Faithful translation and (4) Semantic translation. He also lists four
kinds of translations with emphasis on the target language: (1) Adaptation,
(2) Free translation, (3) Idiomatic translation and (4) Communicative
translation. All 8 styles mentioned above are used with different English
target groups in mind, and the same is true with all the 8 kinds of
translations (In some instances a particular style is characteristic for a
particular type of translation so the style and translation merge.)

Target groups for Bible translations may be (1) young people,(2) natives
with no previous knowledge of the Bible,(3) Christian congregarions (public
reading),(4) educated Christians (NEB),(5) Christians with less education
(TEV),(6) those doing indepth Bible study (paraphrases as Wuestęs and
strictly literal versions as the NWT and the Schocken Bible),(7) the
general public, and others. The point of my previous post was that it is
not very illuminating to say that "translations which always translate any
given Greek word with invariably the same English word must be often
misleading", because this presumes that there is just ONE English target
group, but there are many! A strictly literal translation (or any other
translation) cannot be evaluated in the light of a certain theology or a
certain view of what a Bible translation should look like. It can only be
evaluated in the light of whether it follows its own translation principles
and whether it communicates well with its target group.

On b-greek we engage almost exclusively in "academic translation", i.e.
strings of Greek words are translated to find the meaning for ourselves and
for the list. The question about target groups is irrelevant. Real
translation from one language to another is a completely different world. I
would like to see the translator getting a translation assignment whose
first question is not: "What is the target group?"


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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