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Thursday, September 07, 2006

The foolish things of this world

In these first few days back to school I have been recalling previous Septembers and reflecting on this fall.

One year I had a short term position in an international baccalaureate class, teaching the Enlightenment and Latin American Revolution. We discussed everything from Aristotle to Bolivar, in French. Two years later I read in the news that one of the classes I taught became the top ranking class in Canada in the International Baccalaureate exams. They were exceptional students. (I don't think I was there long enough to be able to take any credit for these results, but it was quite the experience just the same.)

I still remember how a group of students stood around me crying (don't ask me when high school students took on that affectation - not mine as a kid!) on my last day with them. But now they are all at Harvard and Standford and well taken care of.

From there I went into my present job not far away in the poorest district in the province, maybe the country. I think about our children here, abandoned by parents who live on the street, physically and sexually abused, some with parents who don't speak English and often don't even have a language in common.

One hearing impaired child was mute until 9 years old, with only a rudimenatary ability to communicate. Another watched as his father commited suicide. Some boys fall off their chairs if you speak too loudly, and you know that the startle reflex is there for a good reason. Some girls are sent out of the country at 13 years old to be married to men they have never met, and one girl knows that her mother was murdered by her in-laws.

So when I sat down tonight to write I lost interest in grammar, and sat thinking of the children. And then I looked up a verse or two here and there and let the Greek New Testament fall open on an easy passage. I decided this time to let the Greek flow into English as I read and then I wrote it down. Here is a small piece of what I read,
    βλέπετε γὰρ τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμῶν ἀδελφοί ὅτι οὐ πολλοὶ σοφοὶ κατὰ σάρκα οὐ πολλοὶ δυνατοί οὐ πολλοὶ εὐγενεῖς ἀλλὰ τὰ μωρὰ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεὸς ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τοὺς σοφούς καὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεὸς ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τὰ ἰσχυρά1 Corinthians 1:26-27
And here is what I wrote,

    For think of when you were called, my friends, that not many were wise according to the flesh, not many powerful, not many well-born. But the foolish things of this world God has chosen to shame the wise, and the weak things of this world God has chosen to shame the strong. (Mine)
And here are the King James Version and the CEV,

    For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; KJV

      My dear friends, remember what you were when God chose you. The people of this world didn't think that many of you were wise. Only a few of you were in places of power, and not many of you came from important families. But God chose the foolish things of this world to put the wise to shame. He chose the weak things of this world to put the powerful to shame. CEV
    I like the rhythm that I created in my own translation, (even using predicate fronting. I am not sure how it sounds to others but it came quietly and unbidden into the text. Sometimes it is best to remain flexible!) 'Powerful ' and 'well-born' are obvious and undisputed terms that fit well on a stylistic level with the Greek, and 'shame' is also the literal translation.

    However, when all is said and done I find that the CEV communicates the meaning well. Is there a way to meld the rhythm and compactness of my translation with the communicative effect of the CEV?


    At Fri Sep 08, 06:13:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Personally, I think your translation is both accurate and poetic and clearly understood. I like the "rhythm and compactness".

    At Fri Sep 08, 06:23:00 AM, Blogger David Ker said...

    I think the work you do with vulnerable children is wonderful. Thanks for reminding us of things more important (gasp) than translation philosophy.

    At Fri Sep 08, 06:27:00 AM, Blogger Eddie said...

    Thanks Suzanne.

    At Fri Sep 08, 07:56:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

    I take back my earlier criticism of predicate fronting. I remember my mother saying, 'Make your words sweet in case you have to eat them!'

    At Fri Sep 08, 08:46:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

    Is there a way to meld the rhythm and compactness of my translation with the communicative effect of the CEV?

    I want to believe there is, Suzanne. I think a key to rhythm and perhaps compactness, also, is literary ability of the translator. You have it. Many English Bible translators do not.

    One way to meld literary beauty with communicativeness is through a revision process coupled with field testing. The content and forms of the translation are field tested for communicativeness with audiences one wishes the translation to communicate to. There is a link to "field testing" in the margin of this blog. A brief intro to designing appropriate testing questions is found in another online document.

    The purpose of field testing is only to determine if the audience is getting the same understanding from the translation that the translator intends them to get. The audience does not take the place of the translator. If testing reveals, for instance, that the word "flesh" is not understood in the sense you wish, then you, the translator, revise until you find a translation wording which does communicate the intended meaning *accurately* and also with literary beauty.

    At Fri Sep 08, 09:49:00 AM, Blogger Kevin Knox said...

    Beautiful, Suzanne - both parts. Thank you.

    At Fri Sep 08, 04:23:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

    Interesting that no one commented on my error, writing 'this' world instead of 'the world'. Thanks!


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