Should stylists change a translation?
One of my former professors was on the translation committee for the NIV, but even he hates that Bible and won’t use it. According to him, once the translation committee did its work, their completed translation was given to a group of English professors in order to “improve” the wording from an English standpoint. In other words, the final wording of the NIV was determined by a group of editors who don’t read the original languages. That, in my opinion, makes the NIV a paraphrase rather than a translation. (BTW, the translation committee was not warned in advance that their work would be changed by a group of English professors.)Has anyone heard this point made before? Can anyone confirm its truth?
[Update, 14th September: The Chairman of the NIV translators has effectively denied the truth of this account. See the comments by Wayne Leman.]
Is it a reasonable policy to allow the text of a translation to be changed by stylists of the target language, apparently without reference back to the original translators?
My own answer to this would start by affirming that target language stylists should indeed be involved with the translation process. However, this should not be a separate stage following translation by original language experts, but from the beginning an integral part of the translation process, with stylists working alongside original language experts. Changes proposed by stylists certainly need to be approved by experts in the original languages.
However, I can see that it might not be practical to agree every stylistic change with every original translator. Also it might not be possible to agree on every kind of change, especially if the translator's instincts are rather literalistic. So it is not surprising, however well a project might be run, that some members of translation teams become rather disgruntled with the whole process.
Bible translation is difficult and time-consuming. Translators who are part of a team, rather than those producing one man or woman versions, need some give and take, and to accept that sometimes their preferences will not be accepted by the majority. All of us who work in this field need plenty of humility.