Closest natural equivalence translation

Translating Dogen demands a philosophy of translation. Many of those translating Dogen are not professional translators, which perhaps is why we so often fail to see coherent philosophies being applied.

The simplistic choice is between “literal” and “paraphrased” translations. These styles have names: formal and dynamic equivalence, or “form equivalence” and “functional equivalence”. Sometimes the terms “word for word” and “thought for thought” are seen as well.

The debate between the two schools is heated and often uninformed. The literalists accuse the paraphrasers of inserting their own opinions into the translation. The paraphrasers respond that the literalists create wooden translations that no one wants to or can read.

There are problems with both sides of course. No translation can be completely literal, since it must use the vocabulary and syntax of the target language. And if the objective of the paraphrasers is to “create the same effect in the mind of the reader of the translation as the original did in the mind of its,” clearly this is impossible given that the readers exist in different cultural and historical contexts.

Of course, which style to use depends on the goals of the translation and the target audience. A wider, more general audience would call for a more dynamic style, a narrower, more expert audience a more formal one. When the source and target languages are distant linguistically, a more dynamic style may be the only choice.

Dynamic equivalence was developed by the linguist Eugene Nida for Bible translation. He insisted that only this approach could create an approachable, meaningful Bible for the masses. Bible translations are clearly a useful analogy for translating Dogen. An interesting approach developed for the God’s Word translation is called closest natural equivalence translation.

Closest natural equivalence claims to achieve the following:

  • provide readers with a meaning equivalent to the source language in the target language
  • express that meaning naturally in a way that a native English speaker would have spoken or written
  • express the meaning in a way that is as close as possible to the way the source language expressed the meaning

CNE asserts that an awkward translation by definition is not faithful to the original, while at the same time natural-sounding language in and of itself never suffices to make a translation good.

The obvious objection is that it may not be possible to convey meaning accurately in natural sounding language. I would assert, however, that it is simply a matter of time and effort on the part of the translator. It should not be out of the question to spend an hour, or even a day, on a single sentence. Naturally, this reduces translator throughput dramatically. It is striking, however, how in many cases, once the effort is made, the resulting natural English undeniably conveys the meaning of the original in a way much more compact and compelling that a mechanical translation might.

The web page quoted above ends with a caveat:

Translation can never be completely objective. Even when operating under the assumptions of closest natural equivalence, translators cannot produce a perfect translation. Translators use cautious judgment and maintain a keen awareness of all the factors needed for a full understanding of the source text. Among other things, translators need to understand the original language’s grammar and syntax, appreciate and understand literary devices used by the original authors, understand what kind of audience the original author had in mind when writing, and understand the modern target audience and its language. Because these factors call for balance and judgment, every translation (even those produced using closest natural equivalence) can be improved.

6 Responses to “Closest natural equivalence translation”

  1. DavidD Says:

    How many words would it take to adequately translate that picture?
    Is any translation from a different culture as incomplete?

  2. KJV Says:

    There are many different “Bible� versions today claiming to be the Word of God. Each one tells us that it is the most reliable, most accurate, etc. etc.. But which of them is God’s Word? Since they all disagree with one another, we can’t possibly say that they all are. Can we? Are we to suppose that God has written more than one Bible and that he makes statements in one and then disagrees with himself in another? No, of course not. God only wrote one Bible. How, then, do we go about determining which “Bible� is the Bible? If we look to human opinion for the answer, we will find nearly as many opinions as we find people. One person will like one. Another person will prefer another. Yet a third person will assure us that it really doesn’t matter, telling us that any of them will do just fine. Since we aren’t interested in human opinion here, we need to look to scripture for help in resolving this issue. There are two questions that we will need to consider. (1) Which are the correct manuscripts?
    (2) Which is the proper translation of those (the correct) manuscripts? Go to web site for answer.

    1. God promised to preserve His words (Psa. 12:6-7; Mat. 24:35). There has to be a preserved copy of God’s pure words somewhere. If it isn’t the KJV, then what is it?
    2. It has no copyright. The text of the KJV may be reproduced by anyone for there is no copyright forbidding it’s duplication. This is not true with the modern perversions.
    3. The KJV produces good fruit (Mat. 7:17-20). No modern translation can compare to the KJV when it comes to producing good fruit. For nearly four hundred years, God has used the preaching and teaching of the KJV to bring hundreds of millions to Christ. Laodicean Christians might favor the new versions, but the Holy Spirit doesn’t.
    4. The KJV was translated during the Philadelphia church period (Rev. 3:7-13). The modern versions begin to appear rather late on the scene as the lukewarm Laodicean period gets underway (Rev. 3:14-22), but the KJV was produced way back in 1611, just in time for the many great revivals (1700-1900). The Philadelphia church was the only church that did not receive a rebuke from the Lord Jesus Christ, and it was the only church that “kept� God’s word (Rev. 3:8).
    5. The KJV translators were honest in their work. When the translators had to add certain words, largely due to idiom changes, they placed the added words in italics so we’d know the difference. This is not the case with many new translations.
    6. All new translations compare themselves to the KJV. Isn’t it strange that the new versions never compare themselves to one another? For some strange reason they all line up against one Book—the A.V. 1611. I wonder why? Try Matthew 12:26.

  3. mukram Says:

    i want spokan english tip plz send me brother.

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