The Theory and Practice of Translation

The Theory and Practice of Translation

The Theory and Practice of Translation

The Theory and Practice of Translation


The Theory and Practice of Translation, first published in 1982 and a companion work to Toward a Science of Translating (Brill, 1964), analyses and describes the set of processes involved in translating. Bible translating, the focus of this work, offers a unique subject for such a study, as it has an exceptionally long history, involves more than 2,000 languages, a vast range of cultures and a broader range of literary structures than any other type of translating. Not only of interest to Biblical scholars, therefore, this work explores issues of textual meanings and the procedures for communicating these meanings into other languages and cultures.


While the volume Toward a Science of Translating, describes the major components of translation. The Theory and Practice of Translation describes the set of processes that are actually employed in translating. The focus is on Bible translation because this has been a major concern for interlingual communication for an exceptionally long period of time. (2) involved more than 2.000 diverse languages, (3) is concerned with a wide range of cultures, and (4) represents a broader range of literary structures than any other type of translating. This volume is essentially a set of procedures in translating. namely, analysis, transfer, restructuring, and testing.

Translating is essentially a process of communication and this means that a translator must go beyond the lexical structures to consider the manner in which an intended audience is likely to understand a text, because so much depends on the underlying presuppositions of the respective source and target cultures. In testing the adequacy of a translation, the crucial questions are “For whom?” and “In what cultural setting?” The answers are never simple, but highly complex, because both the source text and the translated text may represent very diverse cultural orientations and values.

A translator of a text involving significant cultural differences is like a juggler trying to toss and catch a variety of objects all at the same time. Accordingly, a translator must establish certain priorities: (1) contextual consistency should have priority over purely verbal consistency, (2) dynamic equivalence has priority over formal correspondence, (3) orality has priority over scribal forms, and (4) expressions that are used by and are acceptable to the intended audience have priority over expressions that may be traditionally more prestigious. Analyzing and testing these sets of priorities are the crucial concerns of this volume.

The essential purpose of this volume on translating is to highlight different sets of meanings, for example, grammatical, referential, and connotative, and this means that these diverse meanings must be carefully studied in terms of transfer, restructuring and testing, especially in relation to the channel capacity of a target language. In fact, such procedures must involve the total range of cultural similarities and divergencies. Spelling this out for a number of different kinds of texts is the focus of this volume and the principal reason why it has been so widely used by translators working in a number of diverse language families and cultures.

Basic to these principles of translation are four fundamental views concerning Scripture. In the first place a translation must make sense, and often Bible translations are not understandable. For example, few English speakers understand the real meaning of hallowed he thy name (Matthew 6.9). The first word in the underlying Greek text is a passive imperative, a construction that no longer exists actively in English, but it means that the . . .

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