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MANUAL FOR PREPARING SIMPLE ENGLISH BASES FOR TRANSLATION I. Introduction The purpose of writing a simple English base is to make the translator’s job easier by producing a complete and accurate translation base that non-mother-tongue speakers of English can understand. The simple English base is NOT a summary or dumbed-down version of the original text. Rather, the simple English base communicates the full meaning of the original text while being clear and natural. English is a complicated language, often difficult to understand for the non-mothertongue speaker because of the many idiomatic phrases, grammatical usages, multiple meanings of words, and frequent appearance of long sentences. In addition to all of that, English involves unpredictable spelling and pronunciation rules as well as inverted order in sentence construction. Think of all the times when you, a mother-tongue English speaker, have read and re-read some passage in a reference book or a “deep” treatise, wondering just exactly what it is the author is trying to say. Translators who are not as familiar with English and its usages will face even more difficulty if not given a simplified English base for their translation work. The result of poor understanding of the base text will be a poor translation, one that is not accurate, and probably not clear and natural, because the translator cannot express in his own language an idea he does not himself grasp. A simple English base can be used for translation into any language, assuming the translator has skill in English. Simple English bases prepared for one particular place can be used by teams in other locations. (That is why WORD Ministries keep files of simple English bases for often-requested materials in the resource center at Harrisburg: to promote sharing of prepared bases and discourage the poor use of time and effort in preparing bases that have already been done.) Even though bases will be shared, the person preparing a simple English base should keep language and culture of the target group in mind. Giving thought to the target language will help you to do a better job of eliminating those words, phrases, grammatical structures, etc. that will puzzle the translator. (For example, the French language rarely uses passive voice, so the person preparing the English base for translation into French will do well to eliminate the passive voice from the text.) Culture of the target group should also be kept in mind, especially in the parts of the text where illustrations, examples and pictures are used. These could convey wrong or no meaning to persons of another cultural background. If we could thoroughly train every translator in good translation principles and methods and in English grammar, vocabulary and usage, we would not need to prepare simple English bases. But we cannot; so your job is quite important. By removing problematic features from the source text, you can help the translator to produce a more accurate translation, and one that is also clear and understandable. His work will, of course, still go through a series of checks, corrections, testing, and more corrections, but the first draft manuscript will be of much higher accuracy and quality than if he had translated from a more difficult, less understandable base text. The purpose of this manual is to apply some basic translation principles and methods to the task of preparing a simple English base for translation. Removing possible “stumbling blocks” for the translator in our preparation of the base text will not only make his job easier, but will allow the translator to concentrate his efforts on producing a manuscript that is accurate, clear and natural without having to spend a lot of time figuring out the meaning of the text.. Principles are presented and opportunity for practice with application of those principles is given. **Please note that these principles are NOT meant to be applied to the translation of Scriptures. Some of these principles and methods are appropriate for Scripture translation, but others are not. The principles and methods applied to Scripture translation are much more rigid than those for translation of other materials. II. Translation Defined Translation is the re-telling (in another language), as exactly as possible, the meaning of the original message (source text) in a way that is correct, clear and natural. Note that: Words will probably not match up one-for-one (nail, board, you) Words are arranged in sentences differently in each language (verb placement, adjectives) If the translation follows too closely the grammar and words of the original, the translation may be unnatural, confusing and give the wrong meaning An accurate translation has: no omissions no additions no changes The two main steps in translation are: discover the meaning of the source language text and express the meaning in the target language in a way that is accurate, clear and natural A good translation depends on: a reliable understandable base text a trained translator and translation team (checkers, reviewers, testers) clear goals (target audience, proposed uses, etc) quality time spent in checking, revising, and testing III. General Suggestions for Preparing an English Base for Translation As you read through the material with translation in mind, some things will be glaringly obvious as far as need for simplification. Here is the “short list” of things to watch for: 1. Sentence length – Most tribal languages contain an average of 10-11 words per sentence, while English has long sentences and Greek has even LONGER sentences. Remember that our translators often have a tribal language as their mother tongue, so they are accustomed to shorter sentences. Often you will need to cut the sentences into two or three shorter sentences. Just be sure NOT to lose the ties between ideas. It in sometimes necessary (and certainly okay) to begin a sentence with “This is because of..” or “After that...’ or “Then...”, or “As a result of ....” Remember, our goal is to convey the meaning clearly, and that includes words that describe how the ideas are related. 2. Difficult words – Sometimes these are big words which can be replaced with one or two smaller, simpler words or a simpler phrase. Sometimes those difficult words require an explanation or definition. You may even need to give an example. Words such as “imputation” and “unanticipated” may need to be defined. 3. Difficult grammatical structures – English speakers (and writers) often invert word order for emphasis or other meaning shifts. Long sentences can make it difficult for readers to follow the subject to the verb, and may include several idea units. (These sentences can be cut as discussed above. See also step 4 below.). It may be that grammar forms used are not found in the target language or are rarely used (like passive voice in French). Some grammatical structures are difficult in any language, such as subjunctive, and can obscure meaning for the translator. 4. Vague referents – English often uses “it” or “they” to refer to something mentioned in a previous sentence or earlier in the paragraph. This can be confusing, especially for translators whose language uses referents only for the most-recently mentioned subject or when the language uses the same pronouns for animate and inanimate subjects. (For example, one translator was stumped by a sentence referring to the temple and tabernacle as “them,” because she expected that pronoun to refer to people.) It is better to re-name the subject than to leave the reference vague. 5. Words or phrases likely to be misunderstood (idiomatic phrases, words with more than one meaning, etc. Note that more of these will be specified later in this manual.) For example, the phrase “Jesus had beaten Satan again.” could be re-written in the base text as “Jesus had conquered Satan again.” 6. Cultural ideas – Often the examples given in word or picture illustrations are unknown in the target language culture. Substitute common examples from the target culture. For example, if the woman in the lesson is suffering financial difficulties (maxed out her credit cards), the woman could be described in the simple English base as facing the problem of no money in hand to do her marketing on a Monday.