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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Literary style -- Part 3

Now, let's try to evaluate the quality of English in a passage from four recently translated English versions. To keep this exercise as objective as possible, I will not give the names of the version until after enough people have tried this exercise and posted their answers. Please do not look up the passage in different versions to try to discover which versions they are from. We just want to compare these versions with each other. Study each version, then try to rank them according to which sounds to you like it has the best quality English, then the next best, and finally, the version of the four which, to you, seems to have the worst quality English of these four.

Please do not hesitate to try this exercise, thinking it is only for English or Bible scholars. There are no right or wrong answers for this exercise. We would just like to know how the wordings sound to you, personally.

Version 1:
This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works. These are good and profitable for everyone. But avoid foolish debates, genealogies, quarrels, and disputes about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a divisve person after a first and second warning, knowing that such a person is perverted and sins, being self-condemned.
Version 2:
The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
Version 3:
These things I have told you are all true. I want you to insist on them so that everyone who trusts in God will be careful to do good deeds all the time. These things are good and beneficial for everyone. Do not get involved in foolish discussions about long lists of ancestors or in quarrels and fights about obedience to Jewish laws. These kinds of things are useless and a waste of time. If anyone is causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with that person. For people like that have turned away from the truth. They are sinning, and they condemn themselves.
Version 4:
The word is trustworthy, and I deliberately will you to consent concerning these things, in order that you might consider beautiful works to preside over those having believed by God. These are the beautiful things, and beneficial to humanity. Shun moronic inquiries, genealogies, squabbling, attitudes, and lawyers: for they are disastrous and futile. After the first and second warning excuse an individual who is a sectarian, having discovered that one such as this has been skewed, and deviates, being automatically judged against.

Please rank the preceding passages from best to worst English quality, giving their passage numbers, for example, from best to worst: 2 1 4 3.

If two or more passages seem equal in quality to you, mark them as equals with a hyphen, for example, 1-2 3-4, where 1 and 2 would be equal to each other, but better in quality than 3 and 4 which are equal to each other.

To submit your answers, click on the "Send" button. Then, if your browser asks you if you wish to submit your answers, click on "OK" and then "Send".



At Sun May 15, 12:13:00 PM, Blogger Ron Conte said...

Version 3 has the better sounding English, but it is not necessarily the most accurate translation. For example, that version has 'Jewish laws' whereas the other versions have merely 'laws.'

As a balance between accuracy and readability, version 1 might be a better choice.

At Mon May 16, 09:02:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Good observations, Ron. In this exercise we were only evaluating quality of English. We can have other exercises to evaluate accuracy. And other exercises for readability. And others for literary excellence. There are many different translation parameters and each one can be measured separately. Obviously, we then want to do as you have done, and try to come up with the best possible combination of parameters. But first I think it is necessary to examine each parameter separately. I think this allows for the greatest objectivity in analysis.

At Fri May 20, 07:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

3 1 2 4 is my read.


At Thu May 26, 08:57:00 PM, Anonymous bob said...

for me:

3 2 1 4

I found 4 was particularly difficult to read because of the poor choice of words, as well as awkward constructions which plagued 1, 2 & 4.

Also 1 & 2 were fairly similar until the last sentence which was terrible in version 1.

I also noticed an interesting effect as I read these verses, because I had to work hard to comprehend the first one, the second was slightly easier to understand, and by the fourth version it didn't seem so bad except for the vocabulary. Once I re-read them all I had a better idea of their relative positions.

Bob Firth


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