Bible Translation: An Introductory Course in Translation Principles

Barnwell, Katharine

This is a manual for those who are preparing to translate the Bible into their own mother tongue. It can be used as a textbook for formal courses or for training individuals.

Part one deals with basic principles of Bible translation, common problems met in translation, and procedures for making and testing translations. Part two deals with the initiation of a translation project.

Also see the Teacher's Manual to accompany Bible Translation: Introductory Course in Translation Principles (Barnwell, 1987)

About the Author

"Katy" Barnwell has served with SIL International since 1963 in Nigeria and other countries in Africa, and from 1989 to 1999 in the International Translation Department at Dallas. Currently, she is an international translation consultant. She received her Ph.D. in Linguistics from the School of African and Oriental Studies and University College, London, in 1969.

You may also be interested in the book, Bible Translation Basics: Communicating Scripture in a Relevant Way by Harriet Hill, Ernst-August Gutt, Margaret Hill, Christoph Unger, Rick Floyd, 2011.

Table of Contents:

Starting To Translate

Part One: Translation Principles, Problems, and Practice

  1. What is Translation?
  2. Two Kinds of Translation
  3. Some English Translations of the Bible
  4. How to Translate Idioms
  5. The Qualities of a Good Translation
  6. Two Steps in Translating
  7. How to Translate Unknown Ideas
  8. How to Study the Meaning of a Word
  9. How to Translate Special Biblical Terms
  10. How to Study Your Own Culture
  11. Towards Meaningful Translation
  12. Things that Hinder a Message from Being Understood
  13. More about Cross-Cultural Differences
  14. Further Exercises on Meaning-Based Translation
  15. Finding the Facts
  16. Ways of Providing Background Information
  17. A Natural Translation
  18. Discovering the Meaning 1--Event Ideas
  19. Discovering the Meaning 2--"Of" Phrases
  20. Discovering the Meaning 3--Active and Passive
  21. Discovering the Meaning 4--Short Cuts (Ellipsis)
  22. Discovering the Meaning 5--Complex Passages
  23. Discovering the Meaning 6--Order of Events
  24. Discovering the Meaning 7--Long of Short Sentences
  25. Figures of Speech--Comparisons
  26. Other Figures of Speech
  27. Rhetorical Questions
  28. Making a First Draft Translation
  29. How to Check a Translation
  30. Ten Ways to Test a Translation
  31. How to Make a Back-Translation
  32. Section Headings
  33. Pronoun Reference
  34. How to Discover the Grammar of Your Language
  35. Translation Problems--A Review

Part Two: Notes for Discussion Sessions on Planning and Organizing a Bible Translation Project

The Translation Team
Other Aspects of Planning a Bible Translation Project
Qualifications of a Bible Translator
Stages of a Bible Translation Project
What Can We Do to Encourage the Use of the Translated Scriptures?

Part Three: Check Yourself on Your Knowledge of Bible Background

Student's Working Sheets on the following topics:
  1. Everyday Life in Palestine
  2. The Religious Life of the Hebrews

Part Four: Principles Of Good Spelling

Student's Working Sheets

Part Five: Writing Practice

Student's Working Sheets

Part Six: Discovering The Grammar Of Your Own Language

Student's Working Sheets

Part Seven: Review Questionnaires

Review Questions on the following:
Bible Translation
Translating the Word of God
The Theory and Practice of Translation

Part Eight: Books For Translators

  1. Reference Books for Translators
  2. Further Reading on Translation Principles
Reformatted [i.e. 4th] ed. 2002
266 pages
ISBN 13:
ISBN 10:
8.5 × 11 × 0.5 in
1.8 lb
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