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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Idioms survey

Translators have discovered that idioms almost never translate accurately from one language to another. For instance, here is a literal translation of a Spanish sentence which uses a common Spanish idiom: "I'm going to give a walk." I suspect that most English speakers would not get the correct meaning of the Spanish idiom dar un paseo, literally 'give a walk,' from that English translation. Instead, the meaning of the Spanish idiom would be accurately translated to English with an English idiom, resulting in the English sentence: "I'm going to take a walk." "Take a walk" is an English idiom. A literal translation of this English idiom to any other language would likely communicately accurate in very few, if any, of those languages.

Translation of biblical idioms is no different. The Bible uses real language and real idioms. The Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek idioms found in the Bible usually cannot be literally translated to English while also communicating their meanings accurately.

I have just posted a new poll to this blog which is a fun (for me, anyway!) exercise. It checks to see if fluent English speakers can tell the difference between wordings which are true English idioms and wordings which are not. Such a knowledge of English idioms is necessary for two reasons:
1. To sanction (allow for) the use of English idioms in the translation
2. To disallow word combinations which could theoretically be considered English idioms, but which are not true English idioms
Those of you who enjoy language and figurative uses of language may find this new test especially fun to "take." Oh, yes, we can "take a test" in English, but we cannot take some other things, including an essay! The latter wording is not a part of the lexicon of English idioms. Part of the process of checking an English Bible translation before it is published should include noting wordings which attempt to translate biblical idioms literally, but which are not in the English lexicon and so do not communicate the meaning of the biblical idioms accurately.

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