LiFE-Style Translating-5

During the course of studying and working through this Workbook for Bible Translators (see preceding posts), most of the important literary types, or genres, found in the canonical compilation that constitutes the Scriptures will be described, illustrated, and applied in translational exercises. This text-intensive approach is intended to sharpen the translator’s eyes in order to perceive these varied artistic-rhetorical forms in the biblical writings, analyze them for greater understanding, and then employ this knowledge in the search for an equivalent manner and mode of expression in the TL, whether wholly or partially.

There are two principal concerns regarding quality control, namely, accuracy and appropriateness: As to the first of these, the basic content and communicative intentions (i.e., the “meaning”) of any translation of Scripture must correspond in sufficient similarity to what has been determined (through systematic analysis) to be inherently expressed in the original text. As to the second, the final translation product must prove (on the basis of careful audience testing) to be widely acceptable to the constituency and to conform to the purpose(s) for which it was commissioned and prepared.

While a specific LiFE (“literary functional equivalence”) method has been adopted in this text as the primary point of reference with regard to translation theory and practice, it is assumed to be adaptable enough to co-exist with virtually all other contemporary approaches. Indeed, a special artistic and rhetorical concern can be readily incorporated into any current model of translating texts. Thus, the possibility of relative degrees, or variable amounts, of stylistic application in any given text case or translation setting is emphasized throughout this workbook.

While the focus of this workbook is on a literary perspective and set of procedures, I need to stress the fact that, though distinct, this often overlaps with a more linguistically-oriented, discourse-analysis technique, as presented, for example, in Robert Dooley and Stephen Levinsohn’s 2001 work (Analyzing Discourse: A Manual of Basic Concepts, Dallas: SIL International). This introductory study may well serve as a helpful complement to the present workbook when analyzing and translating the literature of Scripture in all its depth and diversity. The same might be said for the material to be found in the STEPS program, an excellent electronic training tool for Bible translators and consultants that is being developed by Murray Salisbury (STEPS: “Skills for translating and exegeting the primary Scriptures,” trial version, 2002). In fact, one of the preliminary caveats of this helpful collection of biblical studies applies just as well to LiFE-Style Translating:

“It should be emphasised that there are often no clear boundaries between many of the categories that are taught in this resource. Figurative language, literary devices, and discourse features form something more like a continuum (like the colour spectrum) than an orderly system of distinct pigeon-holes. Like trying to identify the boundary between red and orange, some literary features could be classified in terms of more than one category. In such cases, it may not be profitable to try to decide which category is more appropriate. The important thing is to understand how a particular piece of [biblical] literature works and how it achieves its purposes.” (p.4)

About ewendland

I am currently an instructor at the Lutheran Seminary, Lusaka, ZAMBIA (since 1968). My academic training has been in biblical studies (BA, Northwestern College; MST, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary), Bible translation (several SIL courses), linguistics (MA, University of Wisconsin, Madison), and African languages (PhD, UWM). I am a “retired” translation consultant for the United Bible Societies (having worked with projects in Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). I currently still serve as an external examiner in Zambian languages (University of Zambia) and as visiting professor in OT, NT, and Ancient Studies at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, with an affiliation to the Centre for Bible Interpretation and Translation in Africa ( My research and writing interests focus on the literary (structural, poetic, rhetorical) analysis of biblical texts and their oratorical translation, especially in southeastern Bantu languages (
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to LiFE-Style Translating-5

  1. Pingback: LiFE-Style Translating-5 | Bible Translation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s