common language translations
Today’s English Version really emerged from the coalescence of several related, yet divergent, developments in the early 1960’s. A group of mid-twentieth century translators, connected with the American Bible Society and United Bible Societies, had been heavily influenced by, and in fact helped shape the direction of, contemporary linguistic theory. They strove to produce versions which remained more sensitive to the need of receptor audiences than many transitional works. Influential methodological contributions, including Eugene A. Nida’s Bible Translating (1947) and William Wonderly’s Bible Translations for Popular Use (1968) stressed a new approach to translations, summarized in the phrase "dynamic equivalence.” Nida, who began his career with the American Bible Society in 1944 and assumed principal responsibility for the Translations Department in 1946, has defined “dynamic equivalence” as a way to “stimulate in the new reader essentially the same reaction to the text as the original author wished to produce in his “first and immediate readers.” Bible translators hoped to produce versions in a “common language,” which Nida defined as “the language common to both the professor and the janitor, the business executive and the gardener, the socialite and the waiter.” They worked toward defining the level of language which constituted an “overlap area” between literary discourse and ordinary, day-to-day usage.
Translators utilizing the principal of “dynamic equivalence” had been at work in Latin America since the 1940’s, attempting to construct a version for new literates, bilingual Indians, people with a limited knowledge of Spanish, and formally educated residents who desired a more “readable” version. Simplified selections from the Gospels appeared in 1947, the Gospel of Luke in preliminary form was published in 1954, and New Testament portions were translated subsequently. The unanticipated popular acclaim accorded these portions, especially in the more cosmopolitan urban centers, testified to the desire for “common language” Scriptures by large segments of the reading public. Work in the region continued, and in May 1966, the Bible Societies of Latin America completed the Version Popular, the first complete New Testament published in a “common” linguistic level in any language.
The TEV (GNT) and CEV are two English Bible versions written in "common language" English. Both were produced by the American Bible Society which is a member of the United Bible Societies which has sponsored translations of several common language translations around the world, including Versión Popular (Dios Llega al Hombre) in Spanish, and translations in Swedish, Korean, and many other languages.
Often, more highly educated speakers of English, especially those well acquainted with English literature from the past several centuries, prefer a Bible translation that is written in a higher register of English than "common language" translations. But both the TEV and CEV have helped millions of English speakers around the world, including native English speakers and ESL (English as a Second Language) speakers, understand the biblical message.
A single kind of Bible translation typically does not appeal to all possible translation audiences. We are, indeed, rich in the English speaking world for having so many difference kinds of English versions to choose from.