Our 10 Steps of Bible Verse Translation

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by Mike Wild on April 30, 2015

Since God first chose men and inspired them to write down His words, the message of the Bible has spread to many places in the world. Much good work has already been done in many languages, but there is still much work to be done. Could you imagine growing up or living in a land with no Bible? How would you learn about God? How would you learn the correct answers to the most important questions in life, like why am I here? Why is there death and suffering in the world? And what will happen to me after I die? In each land and culture in the world, people attempt to answer these questions, but if they don’t have the Bible available to them, then they come up many false answers. Some people believe that they just die and there is no afterlife. Others believe they re-incarnate into some other person or creature. Others believe the dead become evil spirits that hurt other people.

There are many many different beliefs out there in the world, but only one Truth. That Truth is found in the Bible alone, which is why it is so important to translate the Bible for all people. A clear translation of the Bible will communicate God’s message to people anywhere in the world, and in any language! The message of the Bible is a message of hope and everlasting life in paradise with one’s Creator and Savior, and that is a message all men need to hear!

Now translating the Bible is a big job that takes many years to finish. I have been translating for about five years, and I have another three or four years to go (Lord willing, of course!) until I finish the New Testament. There are many steps to doing a good translation, and it involves a whole team of workers. For our team, that means we need a main translator, a co-translator, and coworkers in the native language.

The main translator must be fluent in the language, and he must have a very good understanding of the grammar and discourse patterns of the target language. He then must take the meaning of the passages in the Bible and transfer those to the target language.

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Here are the 10 steps that I take to translate every verse of the Bible.

  1. I (as the main translator) get the very first draft written down in the tribal language. To do this, I look at many translations and commentaries, and then I transfer the meaning of the passage into the target language. This is called the exegetical draft.
  2. Next, my coworker/co-translator goes over the first draft and does a content check. This is the 2nd step. This is to make sure I have not left out any content.
  3. Next, I will get together with a tribal coworker and read sections of the text to him and have him repeat it back to me. When he repeats back a section he will sometimes repeat it naturally a different way, and if it sounds better than what I originally had, I can change it. This is the 3rd step and is called the Mother Tongue draft.
  4. Next, I will go over the text with a different tribal helper to check his comprehension of the text. I want to see if he understands it. We do this three times with three different checkers to work out all of the bugs. These are very important steps, since if the helper is not understanding something, then I need to go back and fix it! These comprehension checks comprise steps 4, 5, and 6.
  5. My co-translator does another comprehension check with a new tribal helper.
  6. Then we do a third and final comprehension check with a new tribal helper.
  7. Next, after everything seems like it is communicating well, we take the text and back draft it into English. This is the 7th step. For the back draft, we take the text in the tribal language and translate it back into English.
  8. We then send this back-drafted version to the translation consultant. He looks over this and adds input. Once his input is considered, final changes are made.
  9. Next, the consultant comes out to our village for a final on-site consultant comprehension check of every verse. My translation partner and I, along with tribal co-workers, work with the consultant to make sure everything looks and sounds good. This final consultant check is the 9th step.
  10. For the 10th and final step, we do final adjusting and formatting and get it printed! It is now ready to be passed out and enjoyed by all!
Mike Teaching

*The views expressed by the Wild family are their own and not necessarily those of Answers in Genesis.

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