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Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Courage of Clarity

In my opinion, many English Bible translators would do well to rediscover their mother tongue as they translate. There is beauty in good literary English. Ironically, it is possible to miss writing in good literary English while trying to avoid dumbing down language or being too colloquial, or through importing non-English language patterns to English translations.

Every English Bible translation team should be required to (re)take a course in how to write well in English before they translate. And it is good to be reminded again and again of what good literary English is, by reading it, and listening to those who teach about the great English classics of literature, including well-written contemporary literature.

The webpage to which this post is linked (click on the title of this post) is one among many voices that call us to write well in English. The better the English is in English Bibles, the more it will be in the mother tongue of those who Bible translators are trying to reach with God's Word in English.

Of course, clarity should never trump accuracy in translation. But neither should obfuscation or convoluted writing ever substitute for clarity, when translators know the meaning they are trying to convey. It is possible to translate both accurately and clearly.

Clear writing requires work, it requires discipline to write only following the patterns and rules of one's mother tongue, and it requires repeated revision until both accuracy and clarity shine through in translation.

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