One for all and all for one

My post at Better Bibles Blog One for all and all for one? discusses how to come up with one Bible version acceptable to everyone in a language group, in answer to some questions from Doug Chaplin and ElShaddai Edwards. In the group I was working with, in which there are only a few churches and a few thousand Christians, the translation team was able to produce a Bible more or less acceptable to all. I don’t hold out much hope for it working for English language speakers. But those of you my readers who are interested in my personal experiences might like to read this post.

0 thoughts on “One for all and all for one

  1. Pam, did you see this post on learning Greek and Hebrew?

    I think Swedish has grammatical gender, but I’m not sure. But it is by no means universal to languages. Most but not all Indo-European languages have it, so do Semitic languages, but many other language groups have no concept of gender at all. In fact English does not have proper grammatical gender, in that (apart from occasional use of “she” with words like “ship” etc) the choice of “he”, “she” or “it” is based on the real world nature of the referent, rather than on the gender class of the noun referred to, as in properly gendered languages like Greek and Hebrew. In fact this is what makes gender language issues in English much more difficult that in other languages.

  2. Interesting article. I speak a few living foreign languages, none of them now fluently although I did once speak fluent French. I do puzzle over translation issues and I’m glad that I don’t have to deal with them! (I would go mad.)

    The theology college I went to asks everyone to do a year of biblical Greek. Although many people would agree that one year of Greek isn’t wildly useful, apparently the reason is simply to demonstrate that there is no such thing as a translation that is both ‘literal’ and dynamically equivilent. It was, however, amazing how many people thought it did exist by Easter. Made you want to bang your head against a wall.

    As an English-speaker and given all the current debates about inclusive language, it was interesting that the language in the linked article had gender-neutral pronouns. (For some reason, I have the impression that this might also be the case in Swedish, but I’m not 100% certain.)

  3. Yes, I saw the article. I found Dobson a total nightmare. I wanted neat lists of tense and verb endings. Everything was all mixed up in Dobson. I went out and bought Wenham to ease my pain. 🙂

    I once took a beginning Italian class in Brussels where about 75% of the other students were Francophone. We came to a physical object that was a different gender in Italian than in French and a couple of Francophones freaked. I can’t remember what the physical thing was, but I remember them arguing for about 45 minutes, ‘But an XYZ is FEMALE, it can’t be MALE!’ and the teacher saying ‘That’s just the way it is in Italian.’

    As an Anglophone, it was interesting to me that these Francophones had imbued this physical object with a ‘sex’ as well as a grammatical gender.

  4. Well, Pam, you must be the exception that proves the rule! Yes, some people do like to learn from paradigms etc. To some extent I am one of them, at least I like to have clear tables to refer to. In fact I learned Greek from Wenham, originally on my own.

    As for your gender frustration example, surely it is similar to some English speakers’ reaction to the German Fräulein (and for that matter Greek paidion, thugatrion etc) being neuter. We tend to think that Germans consider single girls to be unsexed, whereas in fact it is just a grammatical rule that diminutives in -lein are always neuter.

  5. The people in our Greek class who had learned languages – and the two former language teachers – had real problems with Dobson. We asked our tutor (John Procter, who is a great teacher) if we could know exactly what each Dobson chapter was trying to teach – that actually helped a lot.

    As for your gender frustration example, surely it is similar to…

    I think, for me, there is a wider point here and I don’t quite know how to express it. It’s something about assuming that my language reflects some kind of empirical, ontological reality.

  6. It’s something about assuming that my language reflects some kind of empirical, ontological reality.

    Ah well, that’s where you have got it wrong. Language very often doesn’t reflect reality. Maybe it did centuries or millennia ago. But language change has marred most of that reflection. As linguists often put it, language is arbitrary. That means that, even though there is sometimes a link with reality, you should never assume that there must be one.

  7. 🙂

    We really aren’t communicating.

    I agree with you.

    I’m saying that, in my experience, many people see their own language as reflecting an empirical ontological reality. So they have difficulty in perceiving other world-views as reflected through other languages. So my example of a Francophone as refusing to believe that an XYZ could have a male gender in a different language.

    As someone who grew up when ‘mankind’ meant ‘humankind’ and ‘man’ meant ‘humanity’, I think that there is a little bit of this attitude in the refusal to believe that a young person might hear ‘The problem with man is his sinful nature’ as meaning ‘The problem with a male human being is his sinful nature’ rather than ‘The problem with humanity is its sinful nature.’

    I think we resist changes in our own language sometimes because those changes subtly change our perception of ‘reality’ and that subtle change makes us inperceptibly anxious. Rather than deal with the anxiety and change our usage, we rail against the change. (pace Acadamie Francaise)

  8. Thanks for the clarification. I understand you better now, and I agree. Yes, this indeed explains some of the gender language issues. It also explains the attitude of those like Iyov on BBB (and sometimes here) who refuse to accept that not everyone understands English as they do. And maybe I am guilty of the same in different directions.

    To back up, I wonder if the reason why some people prefer paradigm tables and ways of learning languages which have been proven to be less effective is because that is what they perceive language learning should be like: uninteresting and hard work. If presented with a conversational approach, they tend to think that this is not proper learning, just fun, perhaps suitable for holidaymakers wanting to know a few phrases, or dilletantes in biblical languages, but not for serious scholarship. But they fail to recognise how much less efficiently they are learning. This is rather the same story as with those who prefer hard to read Bible versions.

  9. I wonder if the reason why some people prefer paradigm tables and ways of learning languages which have been proven to be less effective is because that is what they perceive language learning should be like: uninteresting and hard work.

    To be honest, I the tables because it made endings easier to memorise when we were trying to cram the basics of Greek grammer into our heads in an academic year. If one understands grammar, I don’t think it’s more boring or more difficult. Perhaps learning conversationally without actually being told the grammatical concepts hard-wires the speech-patterns into your head. But I’m not sure that can be done one hour a day four days a week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the word.
Anti-spam image