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Many people have asked us about the process of Bible Translation. Wycliffe Canada has the following on their web-site explaining the processes in Bible Translation.

The Bible translation process

In the narrow sense, Bible translation is the actual process of drafting, checking, polishing and producing a final version of vernacular Scriptures for publication. It is a specialized, step-by-step effort with technical terminology.

First draft

A preliminary, tentative translation, for testing and improving. Several successive drafts are produced as improvements and revisions are made.

Checking the drafts

Reviewer Check: a read-through of the translation by other speakers of the indigenous language to get their corrections and suggested improvements.

Consultant Check: an adviser with special skills, such as expertise in the original Hebrew or Greek, and/or broader background and experience, reviews the draft. The consultant discusses the translation verse-by-verse with the translators, shares how problem passages have been handled by others, and advises on general aspects of the text.

Exegetical Check: compares the indigenous language translation draft with the original Greek or Hebrew text. This ensures accuracy and faithfulness in the translation. NOTE: “Exegesis” is the explanation or critical interpretation of the text.

Consistency Check: reviews the translation of key biblical terms, important theological concepts, Bible names, and parallel passages throughout the entire text and evaluates rationale for any variations.

Format and Style Check: reviews the preface, introductions to the books, glossary and footnotes. Spelling, punctuation, verse and chapter numbers, paragraphing, maps, pictures and captions are also checked.

Proofreading: checking of the entire manuscript, including all the details listed under format and style, above, is a long, intense and tedious job.

Oral read-through: reading of the entire manuscript to determine whether anything sounds wrong or is missing. This is often done by a group of native speakers.

People Involved in the Process

Translators are those who participate in the work of Bible translation. This includes the following activities:

  • preparing the first draft of the translation
  • reviewing the work of others on the team
  • testing the translation with other speakers of the language
  • receiving, studying and assessing their comments
  • making a revised draft
  • checking the final manuscript for publication

Review committee is a group of native speakers and other workers (expatriates and/or nationals) who do the revision steps referred to above.

Two more critical concepts in the process

Revisions are changes made in the translation to make it more faithful to the original meaning, more natural in expression, more accurate and readable. Every translation goes through many revisions.

Back-translation is translating a Scripture text back into a language of wider communication, from the indigenous language, word-by-word or phrase-by-phrase. It reflects as closely as possible the meaning and grammatical structure of the indigenous language text, so that consultants who do not know the indigenous language can evaluate how accurate and adequate the translation is.