With the news of Eugene Nida’s passing, it’s worth revisiting the single biggest contribution of his thinking to the field of Bible translation.
Nida proposed that the basis of translation should be to replicate the meaning of the original and not necessarily the wording.
. . . [wikipedia’s definition, not Nida’s own, goes here in Rich Rhodes’s BBB post; and then he continues] . . .
The idea of translating “the thought” behind a text rather than something more literally reflecting the wording of the original has been controversial since the time Nida first proposed it — not helped by an unfortunate choice of name. Presumably the dynamic part refers to the fact that more natural sounding translations are more emotionally engaging. Witness the popularity of The Message. Nida, himself, moved toward a more neutral terminology in response to controversy, re-labeling his approach function equivalence.
To many of us in the linguistics business the uproar makes little sense. After all, simultaneous translators translate functional equivalents all the time. Ditto the translators who deal with government and business documents. Anyone who seriously attempted a formal equivalence translation in such contexts would be fired by the end of the day.
And ditto, BTW, literary translators. Where there are bilinguals around to judge, it’s the meaning of the text, not its form that is the bottom line in the translation business. Literary translators get bonus points if they can find ways to mimic the form without sacrificing the meaning.
Why, then, did Nida get all the flak?
In large part, I’d say, because functional equivalence is really, really hard to define. . . .
[read the rest here]
Do note Donna’s and Bob MacDonald’s and then CD-Host’s wonderful comments!