The Language of Faith: Bible translation throughout the centuries (article in MultiLingual magazine)

As a working translator, I knew that a “perfect” translation is neither a goal nor a possible reality. I knew that complete and linear transfer of form and meaning between two languages is not achievable, no matter how closely languages might be related. Like all translators, I knew that there is always something “lost in translation” (the favorite trope of journalists writing about anything related to translation). But I also knew that successful translation is still possible because so much can be gained in translation as well.

It’s in the balance between the two that a translation is successful. Since linear and complete transfer from one language to another is unattainable and therefore not a desirable goal, translators try to generate a text that becomes equivalent in its expressive force and meaning by transformation, by inevitably adding changed and new elements.

What if, I imagined, I could build a database to document those changed and new elements that have made their way into some, and maybe eventually all, of the 3,000+ languages into which the Bible has been translated? What if I could collect a listing of those fascinating terms, phrases, and constructs, and then go a step further to associate each with an explanation or a story or a back-translation into English so that they were actually accessible?

See the rest of this article in MultiLingual magazine right here.

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