Simple Language

David Ker has whipped up a bit of a storm over at Better Bibles Blog with his post entitled Beware of Bible Experts. Basically, David is arguing that experts in the original Biblical languages are not the best placed to speak about the style of translations into English.

… in the process of mastering ancient languages they have lost their own. Mastering Greek or Hebrew or Ugaritic is no mean feat. To get to the point where you can fluently read all those squiggles requires years of effort.

We should respect these people and listen to them when they tell us about the scansion of the Psalms. Or the laments of Jeremiah.

But when they start telling us how to speak English they just need to be listened to patiently and then ignored. And when they start telling us that our Bible translations should sound wooden, well, just roll your eyes and smirk a little.

It’s an interesting post and well worth a read, but make sure you read the comments too.

It’s not just in English that these sorts of debates happen. Mark (on the Wycliffe UK Blog) has just picked up on some intersting discussion about the suitability of Jamaican creole as a vehicle for the Scriptures.

Some residents say that using the local dialect, known as Patois, is diluting the sanctity of the Scriptures.

Others argue that using Patois is empowering because it embraces the Caribbean island’s heritage. Read More

I’d be interested to see some thoughts about translation into Patois from those who get so steamed up about issues relating to English language translation.

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2 replies on “Simple Language”

Part of my job is promoting the Jamaican Patois language project to donors (for The Seed Company).

But I wonder about some creole and patois languages – they are close enough to English (or French or whatever) that maybe the majority language would be enough.

It’s a question of resources; should languages with no “near” translation be focused on first?

I dunno.

As a swiss Wycliffe MK, I can really relate to the topic. I wasn´t aware of the translations into Jamaican Patois. Switzerland had the same type of discussion a while ago when the first translations into Swissgerman came up. Now everybody used the Luther Bible (and still most people do use a regular German Bible). Yet, I really enjoy reading the Bible not only in German/English/French but also in my mother tongue. Ironically, growing up in a bilingual German/French context, I have some difficulties labelling one language specifically for that purpose.

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