SIL International Publications

Bible Translation: An Introductory Course in Translation Principles, Fourth Edition

Barnwell, Katharine

Bible Translation: An Introductory Course in Translation Principles continues to provide crucial, practical training for those preparing to translate the Bible or contribute to Bible translation in other ways.

The fourth edition of this classic textbook is a leading voice in addressing the following developments in the Bible translation world:

  1. The priority of oral communication and its value in drafting, testing, and polishing draft translations.
  2. The availability of software and online resources specifically designed for Bible translation; exercises and assignments include practice in the use of these resources.
  3. The increase in Old Testament translation projects worldwide; more examples and exercises from the Old Testament are included.
  4. The value of partnership and teamwork in translation projects, recognizing the different gifts, skills, and roles of those involved, helping each team member to serve effectively as a member of a team.
  5. The involvement of local churches and community in the translation process; planning for local responsibility, ownership and sustainability as fully as possible in each translation project.
  6. The importance of ongoing training for translators, including training translators to train others and preparing capable translators to serve as translation consultants in due time.

The materials are designed for the classroom but are also suitable for self-study, for example, by those who are already qualified in biblical languages and exegetical skills and are training as translation consultants. A companion Teacher’s Manual is also available.

Documents, references, and links to videos and other published works can be found online at:

Bible Translation: An Introductory Course in Translation Principles has previously been translated in whole or in part into French, Hindi, Indonesian, Kannada, Malagasy, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Portuguese, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Swahili, Tamil, and Telugu. For information on translation or republishing, contact:


Table of Contents: 


Part 1: Translation Principles

  1. Translation Principle
  2. Different Styles of Translation
  3. Some English Translations of the Bible
  4. More about Meaning-Based Translation
  5. Qualities of a Good Translation
  6. Towards Naturalness – Beginning to Explore the Receptor Language
  7. How We Communicate with One Another
  8. Communicating across Cultures and across Time
  9. More about Cross-Cultural Communication
  10. Part 2: Translation Procedures

  11. A Ten-Step Procedure in Translation
  12. Step 1: Exegesis – Discovering the Meaning of the Source Text
  13. Step 2: Making the First Draft
  14. Keyboarding the Translation – An Introduction to the Paratext Program
  15. Step 3: Supplementary Helps – Book Introductions and Section Headings
  16. Step 3, continued: Supplementary Helps – Footnotes, Cross-References, Parallel Passages, Glossary, Illustrations, Maps, and More
  17. Step 4: The Team Check
  18. Step 5: Testing the Translation with the Receptor Community
  19. Step 6: Preparing for the Consultant Check – How to Make a Back Translation
  20. Step 7: Checking the Translation with a Consultant
  21. Steps 8 to 10: The Later Stages of the Translation Process
  22. Step 8: Reviewing and more testing – focus on reviewing
  23. Step 9: Final editing and consistency checking – preparing for publication
  24. Step 10: Final reading for approval by receptor-language church and community representatives
  25. Part 3: Studying Words and How They Are Used (Lexical Meaning)

  26. Exploring the Meanings of Words
  27. Translating Unknown Concepts
  28. More on Translating Unknown Concepts
  29. Translating Key Biblical Terms
  30. Exploring Terms Referring to the Supernatural World
  31. Part 4: More on Discovering the Meaning

  32. Discovering the Meaning – Event Ideas
  33. Discovering the Meaning – “Of” Phrases in English (Genitive Constructions)
  34. Discovering the Meaning – Active and Passive Voice
  35. Discovering the Meaning – Shortcuts
  36. Discovering the Meaning – Complex Passages
  37. Discovering the Meaning – Order of Events
  38. Discovering the Meaning – Long and Short Sentences
  39. Part 5: Figures of Speech and Other Challenges

  40. Figures of Speech – Comparisons
  41. Other Figures of Speech
  42. Rhetorical Questions
  43. Translation Challenges – A Review
  44. Part 6: Discovering Your Language

  45. Principles of Consistent Spelling
  46. Different Kinds of Texts – Speech Genres
  47. Discovering Your Language – How to Chart a Text
  48. Pronoun Reference
  49. Looking at the Big Picture – Discourse Perspective
  50. Part 7: Planning and Organising a Bible Translation Project

  51. The Role of the Churches and Community in a Translation Project –Translation Is Teamwork!
  52. Preparing a Translation Brief
  53. Planning and Organising a Translation Project – Discussion Topics

  54. Appendix: The Cultural and Geographical Background of the Bible
4th Edition
Issue Date: 
343 pages
ISBN 13: 
SIL Subject: 
Translation Theory
Natural Translation
Figures of Speech
8.5 × 11 × 0.7164 in
1.763 lb
Publication Category: 
Content Language: