Bible translation is at the centre of TWFTW’s activities, as indicated in three of our core values:
The Word of God – We believe that the Word of God is contained in the entire Bible, and that the goal of every Bible translation project should be translating the entire Bible.
First-time Bible translations – We are passionate about meeting the greatest needs for Scripture first such as first-time Bible translations.
Respect for all cultures – Each people group is a blessing from God and has the right to hear The Word of God in their own language (language being key to culture).
Our translation approach is meaning-based as opposed to word-based (see a more detailed description of our translation approach here). We strive to produce translations of the Bible that are an accurate representation of the meaning of the original manuscripts, are natural renderings in the language of the people for we translated, and are clearly understandable to the indigenous speakers.
We believe the best translators are those who translate into their own language. To that end our missions statement reflects our focus on empowering nationals for Bible translation:
The mission of The Word For The World Bible Translators is to enable persons, ministries, and organizations from language communities that do not have the Bible in their own language yet to take responsibility for Bible translation and related activities and to ensure its availability and accessibility.
The Process of a Bible Translation Project
Before we start a Bible translation project:
We ensure through research and language surveys that the language does indeed need a translation of the Bible. Together with indigenous churches we recruit suitable candidate translators. We then train these candidate translators through a combination of classroom work, self-study and on-the-job training.
The actual translation process itself involves three steps:
- Analysis of the original to determine what the meaning of the passage is.
- Finding the right words and expressions to convey that meaning in the language into which the translation is made.
- Constructing sentences in that language, faithful to the particular manner of expression of that language.
Three criteria are applied to ensure quality translation:
- Accuracy, that is faithfulness to the meaning of the original
- Naturalness, that is sounding natural to the speakers of the language into which the translation is being made
- Intelligibility, that is being understandable to the reader
Newly translated passages are subjected to two kinds of tests:
- The first involves testing among the mother-tongue speakers of the language. Important questions are the following: Do they understand the translation? Does what they understand convey the correct meaning? Does the language usage sound natural to them? Groups of indigenous speakers from all walks of life are involved in these tests.
- The final test is applied in consultations with a Greek or Hebrew specialist, who compares the translation with the original Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) version. If the consultant does not know the language of the translation, he or she is provided with a back translation into a language they do know.
Only when all the feedback from community testing has been taken into account, and when the consultant is satisfied that the translation is in fact an accurate representation of the meaning of the original, is a translation approved for publication.
TWFTW Translation Approach
In Summary TWFTW advocates that all our translators should follow what Ernst Wendland calls “literary functional equivalence” (“LiFE”) in translation.* This is characterized by:
- A discourse-centred, genre-based perspective, in which the parts of a text are viewed in light of the whole, and vice-versa
- A prominent pragmatic-functional component, in which the form and content of a text is arranged to convey specific communication goals
- Taking into account how the overall situational frames of reference (the intra- inter- and extratextual environment) of any passage would have influenced the original interpretation, and how contemporary elements will affect the understanding of Scripture
- A focus on the artistic and rhetorical dimensions of discourse
- Special interest in the oral-aural dimension of the text of the Bible
*Wendland, E R, 2004. Translating the literature of Scripture. Dallas: SIL International