Saturday, March 07, 2009

If accurate translation is impossible, how is it that foreigners are able to speak English well enough to accommodate ignorant Americans?

Jesus read the Scripture in Hebrew in synagogue and spoke Aramaic (and must have spoken also Latin and Greek). When He was murdered, the Roman governor had placed above His head the charge against Him (and confession of Him) in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament was in common use in Jesus' day. At Pentecost, the Apostles spoke to their hearers in their own languages.

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, the New in everyday -- not classical -- Greek. Was Hebrew suddenly inadequate? Or does God speak to people in a way they'll understand?

What does God think of translation?

More from You-Know-Where.
“in this country we have an appalling track record of teaching our citizens to be bilingual.”
Perhaps that is because Americans have been too busy creating the most powerful nation on Earth and have not needed previously to accommodate superior foreign economies.

Once President Hussein bankrupts the nation and surrenders to Islam, you'll have your wish of a bilingual America: We'll all be speaking Arabic.

(Some of us will learn Caribou when we go hide in the tundra.)

You know, your comments really sound like an ugly stereotype born of ignorance and hate. How many Americans do you REALLY KNOW? Doorman-Priest finds most often that people who speak of others that way have little or no experience with such individuals.

So, do YOU have any American friends? I have a co-worker who's an American. She speaks two languages. She's in tears right now, but I can't understand what she's saying because it isn't in English.

(Who says I haven't learned anything visiting here?)
"Americans" are notorious for traveling the globe and demanding that people speak English.”
Right. Americans can't even get Americans to speak English.

You should have seen me when I was in Italy, demanding English everywhere I went. Even when I yelled, people just stared.
“As such Americans are notoriously ignorant at thinking about the difficulties of translation”
Didn’t you really want to stop at “ignorant”? And aren't your comments proof of the civilizational self-loathing multiculturalist indoctrination produces?
“how often it is not possible to come up with a word that truly defines and captures the essence of a foreign expression or term.”
If it's true that it is often impossible to translate from one language to another, how is it that foreigners are able to speak English well enough to accommodate ignorant Americans?
“I believe you can see this at it's worst in the Biblical literalists who like to rattle off "sound bites" of scripture, often taken out of context”
If it's impossible to translate adequately the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek biblical texts, how can you know that anything in them is being taken "out-of-context"?

If it's impossible to translate accurately, how can anyone know that a translation is inaccurate?
“from a flawed American modernization of the King James Bible which is a flawed translation of a Latin Bible”
No translation can transfer perfectly the meaning of every word from one language to another. That doesn’t mean it is impossible to have reliable, accurate renderings or to understand to a high degree of certainty what an author intends. One of the things I like about the New International Version (though that is not my main translation) is that the translators note in the texts when the original meaning of a particular word, phrase, or number is unclear or there are discrepancies between manuscripts.

The King James Bible was not translated from a “Latin Bible." Its New Testament was based on the Textus Receptus, which was the best available Greek text at the time (Erasmus did have to resort to the Vulgate to translate from the Latin back into Greek for a few passages).

In the centuries since the first publication of the KJV, more ancient and reliable manuscripts have been discovered and our knowledge has improved, allowing much more accurate English translations than previously possible.

Just to show the competence and integrity of its translators, the original King James Version contained over six thousand marginal notes in the Old Testament alone, mostly on variant readings.
"which is a flawed translation of archaic Greek and Hebrew texts - many of which were flawed copies of copies of copies or oral traditions finally put to papyrus."
That there are flaws in the thousands of manuscripts we possess is true, but those flaws do not mean that we are unable to determine to a high degree of certainty what the documents' original authors intended.

The flaws are natural errors in copying, the accidental incorporation of a scribe's commentary into the text during copying, or occasional editing. The good news about this is that the thousands of texts belong to several different families of manuscripts from around the Mediterranean. By using the oldest and most reliable manuscripts from these different sources and comparing differences between them, it is largely possible to see what errors were introduced where.

Whether difficulties in translation or copying and editing errors, the worst that happens is that we're unsure of a particular number of soldiers in a battle, or we don't know what a musical term means. No doctrine, significant historical fact, or truth claims are compromised.

In other words, we can be confident that we have reliable renderings of the Word of God.
"Individuals who are educated enough to be multi-lingual have a much better grasp of the challenges and pitfalls of relying on literal translation. I think it would be rare to hear someone with that background, parrot snippets of a translated text as the sole basis for their argument."
Jesus quoted the Word of God as the sole basis for His arguments. The Bible in common use in His day and used by the Apostles (and it appears He quoted from it or the Hebrew text on which it was based) was the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew and Aramaic Old Testament.

I think you'd call that "parroting snippets of a translated text."