Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Open Bible Translation ::

Writing the post below that mentions Lingamish reminded me that for three weeks I've been meaning to mention his post Open Development Models and Bible Translation the end of the semester (and academic year, with just marking and exams still left!) is such a busy time...

It's a really stimulating discussion starter, based on Raymond’s "evolving book" The Cathedral and the Bazaar. This is in turn based on the ideas in his famous eponymous FirstMonday essay. [For another take on how the ideas of this essay might impact the church see my Back to the Future: Virtual Theologising as Recapitulation from issue 37:2 of Colloquium.]

Lingamish begins to think about how these ideas of open development might apply to Bible translation.

As a translator Lingamish translates Raymond into the translation world. So Raymond's:
2. Good programmers know what to write. Great ones know what to rewrite (and reuse).
becomes Lingamish's:
2. Modify the Scripture already in use.
If there is an existing church, they are probably using some translation of the Bible. If it is a neighboring language can it be adapted? If it is an antiquated translation can it be revised?
The post is well worth a thought, as a "webby" person I can imagine a translation project that
  1. Takes an existing "old" translation, and puts it online.
  2. Begins to suggest modifications and adaptations - with linked "footnotes" explaining the reasoning (at two levels, technical for trained translators and educated pastors etc. that take the original languages as starting point, and less technical that explain this in "lay" terms) these "notes" would operate like blog posts and have a comments feature.
  3. User feedback would modify and polish the translation. This Temporary English Version (or whatever you called it, and obviously since the English translation market is over supplied NOT TempEV*).
  4. Eventually one might be happy enough with the version to produce a print edition.
People are sure to point out that this process will only work where there is Internet. They will then invoke the great digital divide, as an excuse for not trying such an approach. However, I am told that today in Kenya there is an Internet connection of sorts in many schools. Which means in many communities, since non-Westerners are usually less precious about private property, and more willing to share!

[According to SANGOnet:
Of the approximately 816 million people in Africa in 2001, it is estimated that only:
  • 1 in 4 have a radio (205m)


  • 1 in 160 use the Internet (5m)

That would mean that 5,100,000 people have Internet, but they also note that:
In Africa, each computer with an Internet or email connection usually supports a range of three to five users.
Such an approach is not intended to dismiss the digital divide, or to minimise efforts to reduce it, on the contrary, if the Internet is used for useful (to the average villager or their school teacher or pastor) purposes then that in itself will help bridge the divide!

Vive la traduction libre! Say I.

* This name is used for the literal rendering I used for the Amos commentary, it was suggested by my son precisely because I was always changing the rendering in the light of user comments! I will be happy to discuss licensing the name Temporary X Version to any interested millionaires ;-) or impoverished Bible translators who want to make their work available in such a way! [return]

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