In any case, there is some value is using these tests. They do allow us to get a relatively good idea of which versions will be more difficult to read and which ones easier. I, personally, agree with the author of the post to which I am linking that use of a test, such as Flesch-Kincaid, can be useful as a heuristic during the translation process, to monitor the translation to see if it is staying within the reading grade level that the translation team intends for it.
There is greater heuristic value in using these tests if one is thinking and writing directly in English, not involving another language, as happens when translation occurs. So for the authors who read this blog, you might want to take note of ideas in the bloggers post.
Finally, I personally believe that it would be of great value if more English Bible translators approached the translation task as if they were composing in English, rather than translating. I recall one of an elder translation consultant telling us many years ago that if he could do his translation over again, he wishes that he could have the MTT (mother tongue translator) of the language read over an entire section of Scripture in English (or whatever language the native speaker will translate from). Then the MTT would close the source text and narrate the translation in his own words. This should bring a greater degree of naturalness to the translation. Along with naturalness comes greater communicative accuracy (as long as the exegete on the team also ensures exegetical accuracy), since what sounds good in our own language will communicate better to us. What sounds choppy, unnatural, or obsolete creates a significant barrier to understanding for most "ordinary" users of the Bible. Many who read this blog are "non-standard" users of the Bible, able to read and understand the unnatural English which occurs in many English Bible versions. But the Bible was not written for non-standard language speakers. It was written for people who were ordinary speakers of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages, in most cases people who did not have much advanced education. The more accurately and naturally a Bible version communicates to standard speakers of a language, the better that Bible version will be. I realize that this is counter to much of what we hear from conservative Christian pulpits and seminaries these days, because our pastors and Bible teachers have been trained by seminary professors who have been trained by their professors to understand non-standard classroom English translation of the biblical languages.
Let us strive to make better Bibles. Let us encourage our denominational leaders to make better Bibles. Let us distribute better Bibles to those who need to hear God's Word in their language.
Better Bibles bring greater independence to Bible readers, spiritual independence from those things which hinder us from living the kinds of lives God desires for us, and independence from the need for as many extra-biblical helps to translate to better English the poor English which is found in many Bible versions. Today is Independence Day in the U.S. May each day become a greater day of independence for Bible users around the world as we become more attuned to how we actually speak and write our languages, and how the Bible can speak accurately and clearly and naturally in our languages.
Happy Independence days to all!
Categories: Flesch-Kincaid, Bible translation, literary style, translationese