Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Theories and practice of Orthodox translation


  • Please log in to reply
75 replies to this topic

#41 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,028 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 11 June 2007 - 12:15 PM

We all know what committees produce. Our problem also is that we are not composing - only translating.

#42 Peter Farrington

Peter Farrington

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 647 posts

Posted 11 June 2007 - 12:47 PM

Yes, that is very true.

And so I suppose the same issues arise as are found with the translation of Scripture. How far should a translation be literal according to the original words and deficient in cadence etc and even comprehension in the translation, and how far should it be a translation of meaning with allowance for the difference in languages.

I mean accurate but 'difficult to read' translation v accurate enough but 'a joy to pray' translation.

Peter

#43 Anthony

Anthony

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 609 posts

Posted 11 June 2007 - 01:33 PM

Dear Peter and others,

I'm glad to see somebody with experience of translation joining the discussion; I would be interested to have a look at some of your work. As you will know if you have read through earlier posts, I do not completely agree with the need to use traditional protestant English even in liturgical translations - I think there is a place for modern English.

I would like to comment on a couple of points that have been made. One is just to note that "instant accessibility" has never been part of my argument (though I don't see any merit in deliberately making things more difficult than they need be).

The other is that I really don't accept this connection between "modern English" (a neutral linguistic description of a particular phase of a language) and "modernizing" (as in politically correct language, rap music, conspiracies to destroy Orthodox tradition, and God knows what). If it is the word "modern" that is causing this chain reaction, then I am happy to replace this terminology with "standard British English" or "General American" or whatever. I like very much Herman's analogy with clothes; "modern" in this context simply means I show up in Church in shirt and trousers rather than wearing a toga or an Elizabethan ruff.

I think it may be good to switch the focus from "thou" and "you" (which I can see being about as productive as discussing the calendar issue) to questions such as literalness and naturalness (as you have touched on). I wonder if you would like to talk us through a few particular cases which you have worked on?

Just for the record, the modern English translation I use for the beginning of Psalm 50 reads:

Have mercy on me, O God, in your tender compassion, in the multitude of your mercies wipe away my offences.


Not so different really, and nothing like the caricature version (does it actually exist?).

#44 Anthony

Anthony

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 609 posts

Posted 11 June 2007 - 01:43 PM

Dear Nina,

I too am a linguaphile, and agree very much with what you say in your posts. One of the most interesting times of my life was spent at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, which was a feast of cultures and languages. To paraphrase the old saying, "so many languages, so little time" (a friend of mine described it as being like a cat in a butcher's shop).

I agree, too, on the evils of phyletism, and the need to keep sight of the universality of Orthodoxy. What was that feast we had a couple of weeks ago - about languages and God willing that all men be saved?

And finally I am also conscious of the special place of Greek. You are in a privileged position, I feel, having this as your own family inheritance.

#45 Peter Farrington

Peter Farrington

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 647 posts

Posted 11 June 2007 - 01:52 PM

I am afraid that I am mis-advertised by my good friend John Charmley. :-)

I am certainly part of a group of folk, mostly clergy in the British Orthodox Church, who are engaged in producing TLE editions of the Coptic Orthodox offices and of the Greek St James.

I would not say that we were doing translation, much more 'editing'. So a variety of translations will be considered, the differences between them investigated to see whether there is a substantive difference in meaning, and then the text will be put into what is standard BOC TLE.

For myself, I am much more in favour of good, modern English editions of works, but I guess that these tend to require both translation and 'poetry' skills, while 'editing' a text that has already been the subject of several translations requires more of a 'poetic' sense and less of the 'translation' skill.

I do translations from French into English of theological works by (St) Severus of Antioch, and these are all into modern English and comprehensibility is more important to me than poetry.

I don't believe everything I am told, and I do not consider modern English to be the tool of the Devil. :-) I am quite sure that in actual fact you and I would agree on msot things in regard to this thread. I think, for instance, that the English used by Coptic Orthodox might appropriately NOT be TLE as long as it is high quality MLE. As we have said here, there is very bad TLE, adding thee and thou to a bad text does not make it good.

Peter

#46 Peter Farrington

Peter Farrington

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 647 posts

Posted 11 June 2007 - 01:59 PM

One of the most interesting times of my life was spent at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, which was a feast of cultures and languages.


Dear Anthony

I did not realise you had studied at SOAS. I did an Intensive Syriac course there earlier this year with some other online contacts. We arranged for us to have a private course over 4 months with Dr Erica Hunter. I hope that at some point I will be proficient enough to be able to translate some previously untouched manuscripts.

Peter

#47 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 11 June 2007 - 02:52 PM

Peter Farrington wrote:

I do translations from French into English of theological works by (St) Severus of Antioch, and these are all into modern English and comprehensibility is more important to me than poetry.

I don't believe everything I am told, and I do not consider modern English to be the tool of the Devil. :-) I am quite sure that in actual fact you and I would agree on msot things in regard to this thread. I think, for instance, that the English used by Coptic Orthodox might appropriately NOT be TLE as long as it is high quality MLE. As we have said here, there is very bad TLE, adding thee and thou to a bad text does not make it good.


The point here seems to be balance.

There is I think an absolute need for the translator/editor to be faithful to the text. The overwhelming majority of readers in the Church will never have the skills to be able to comprehend the original texts in another language than their own. So they rely on a minority skilled in other languages and editing. A strong element of trust comes into play here.

For example I not so long ago referred to St Gregory the Theologians' theological orations. Without too much thought I relied first on the translation that came from an Orthodox source. After a few months I referred to the ccel version and noticed major differences between the two translations not just in style but in substance and meaning. I'm not sure; but there seemed to have been editing towards a more modern meaning by the more recent Orthodox text. This is not the first time I have seen this done to the original text either through translation or editing. (eg the first translations into English of both St Seraphim of Sarov and of Silouan of Mt Athos left out much of their ascetic teaching).

In other words translation not only involves translating skills; it is done out of a sense of obedience for the rest of the Church. Faithfulness to the text should obviously be part & parcel of any work of the translator. But the final arbiters of the meaning of the original text will be the Church at large.

I think the need for balance also affects editing style. The CCEL versions may be more authentic ( they seem to be 'required versions' for everyone who loves to read the Fathers. But yet I've never heard a discussion of how good these translations are) but actually the Catholic University of America & Ancient Christian Writers series read in a more clear style while seeming to be faithful to the original. (Does anyone know if the more popular Classics of Western Spirituality can be trusted? Personally I try not to rely on these versions too much.) In any case the point here is that style is also important.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#48 Nina

Nina

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,149 posts

Posted 11 June 2007 - 02:58 PM

Dear Nina,
And finally I am also conscious of the special place of Greek. You are in a privileged position, I feel, having this as your own family inheritance.


Dear Anthony,

You are very kind, but I do not think Greek has a special place. It is as special as all other languages that God willed men to communicate through. For me personally, yes, it is special because of my family and because it was forbidden to us. But on the other hand I equally love all languages I know something about, and I can not separate. I do not see myself as privileged though for speaking it; for me the privileged ones are those who do not have any family relations with a language and become so fluent in it that surpass even the natives (I know that your Greek puts my knowledge of it to shame :) ).

Since I am posting, I would like to also mention that from what I remember about things told for Antichrist, he will speak and people of all the world will understand it in their own language. This will be one of his "miracles" to blind people. I do not remember where I read this and definitely I am not in a position to interpret such things, so I am just stating it how I remember it. Also, tools Antichrist will use are not of concern to us. But our selves are (if we will live at those times, God willing): how will we react? will we accept martyrdom? If we are martyred, what importance it will have if Antichrist uses Esperanto or not. Tools are here not to determine our salvation, but to help in salvation, or not because of our choices and actions. We are the only responsible ones. Also to say that "the modern English is the tool of the Devil" means that all the languages that served as a source for building it are the tools of the evil one, from Old German, Latin, Greek etc. (by the way these languages are very much alive through English - they are family).

Maybe identifying the language of Antichrist, is a human attempt to identify him and protect ourselves from him (through the information), but this is such a nebulous path (unless a Saint explicitly states something through the inspiration of God and His enlightenment) that may mislead very easily.

#49 Anthony

Anthony

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 609 posts

Posted 11 June 2007 - 03:13 PM

Maybe identifying the language of Antichrist, is a human attempt to identify him and protect ourselves from him (through the information), but this is such a nebulous path (unless a Saint explicitly states something through the inspiration of God and His enlightenment) that may mislead very easily.


Dear Nina,

I think so too, and am very sceptical of any such attempts unless they come from the very best sources, and then I really will listen. The real Antichrist is, of course, no laughing matter, and I do not make light of it. (The idea that he will be understood by all in their own language is interesting; I hadn't heard that before.) But the conspiracy theories I have come across in certain Orthodox circles are difficult for me to take seriously.

#50 Peter Farrington

Peter Farrington

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 647 posts

Posted 11 June 2007 - 03:13 PM

Dear Father Raphael

I agree very much with the need for a certain caution in using translations, and this depends on the authority with which these translations are given to us. I mean if my bishop and my Holy Synod authorise a translation of the Bible I will be fairly trusting of it.

But if I have purchased a translation of a theological text which is not by people I know very well then I will be reading it with my eyes open. I find this especially so when reading Christological texts in which the original words are often very important, and I often need to try and find and refer to those original texts just to see which words are used.

As you say, there is a need for balance, in this as in all things. If my bishop asks me to do something I will almost certainly do it with faith, if I read something on the internet I will be much less likely to accept it with such faith, simply because I do not know the authority it should have.

Personally I am sometimes a little doubtful of the CCEL translations, but that doesn't mean I don't use them. Just as I will read a very modern paraphrase of the Bible and benefit from it. But if I were writing some serious theological or historical paper I would want to be very sure of my sources and their relative authority.

Thank God we do have Fathers over us in the Church who can make some of these decisions for our spiritual benefit.

Peter

#51 Herman Blaydoe

Herman Blaydoe

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,157 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 11 June 2007 - 03:14 PM

Since I am posting, I would like to also mention that from what I remember about things told for Antichrist, he will speak and people of all the world will understand it in their own language.


What then are we to make of the events chronicled in the second chapter of Acts? Particularly Acts 2:6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.

#52 Nina

Nina

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,149 posts

Posted 11 June 2007 - 03:47 PM

What then are we to make of the events chronicled in the second chapter of Acts? Particularly Acts 2:6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.


Dear Herman,

From the understanding of the Greek word antichrist which does not mean 'against Christ', but 'in place/ instead of Christ', we understand the explanation about the Acts 2:6. Antichrist will make many sacrilegious imitations, in order to mislead people. So performing a "miracle" like in the Acts 2:6 could be one of his sacrilegious imitations.

#53 Andrew

Andrew

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 363 posts

Posted 12 June 2007 - 04:17 AM

Dear Herman,

From the understanding of the Greek word antichrist which does not mean 'against Christ', but 'in place/ instead of Christ', we understand the explanation about the Acts 2:6. Antichrist will make many sacrilegious imitations, in order to mislead people. So performing a "miracle" like in the Acts 2:6 could be one of his sacrilegious imitations.


I think with the advent of such amazing things like the internet and telecommunications, we basically have a worldly anti-Pentecost. Globalization is a form of this, I think.


Technology is a worldly miracle that, coupled with man's passionate attachment to comfort and a despairing fear of death, may be the way in which the Antichrist pulls men towards him. We all depend upon our modern conveniences; but what will we do when they are taken from us? My spiritual father says that the world will clamor for them to be given back, and the Antichrist will come and work a great technological miracle, giving everyone what they want... a basically fulfilled consumerist dystopia, whereas what we now live in is just paving the way for it. The people of the Church will have to live in a humble, lowly manner, in community, in poverty, like the Church of old.

#54 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,028 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 12 June 2007 - 06:47 AM

Dear Andrew,

This is also what I have been taught. And is one reason why Christians should practice living simply (I don't!). I recall some Holy Fathers saying that then, just to be a Christian will mean more than martyrdom in the arenas.

#55 Nina

Nina

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,149 posts

Posted 13 June 2007 - 12:12 AM

Dear Nina,
unless they come from the very best sources, and then I really will listen.


Dear Anthony,

Here are some sayings of Saints.

#56 Nicolaj

Nicolaj

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 371 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 18 June 2007 - 10:26 AM

As a reader of the Scriptures in most different languages I can say that we can go on discussing for a while the come to a point we all agree.
But therefor I will share my experiences here. Being a former Roman and there I was in a very pious group, I can tell that the Pope and also the Pope before him were very anxious about translating and the message being preserved and matched by them. It is like with the game of blind post, everything changes bit by bit, from translation to translation until the message is changed so much that anybody can interpret almost anything into it. And it is to say that mostly in religious textes there is an even wider horizonof possible mistakes while mostly translated by people how don't even love the books they are translating, just doing a job.

I got used during the years of living with the Holy Bible, to use very translations next to another. Not just to verify but mostly to become a wider view of the message itself. I love the New Jerusalem Translation for it's very good notes and I uses the sword of the Lord program to see many Translatiuons next to another.

I am aware that the Holy Church recommends the use of this or that Translation but I like to read in as many tongues as I can to get as much out of it for me. And it is always helpfull for my life to understand the Holy Bible better and better.
But after all these years I am no further as the brother who comes to the Abbas and the Abbas ask him about a verse in the Bible and although he has read it, prayed with it and so on he answers his Abbas: I don't know! and his Abbas says : You are right!

Christos voskrese! Nicolaj

#57 David James

David James

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 91 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 30 May 2009 - 03:07 AM

Cranmerian English is a Protestant tradition, and the treasures it contains are Protestant treasures. If people want to use it that's fine, but I don't see how the language of sixteenth century Protestants can be a criterion of Orthodoxy - of "right worship".


Dear Anthony:

"Beauty is truth, and truth beauty," as Keats says. I would prefer to call 16th and early 17th century English "Early Classical" English, rather than "Cranmerian," in deference to the translators of the King James Bible and Miles Coverdale's psalter - and let's not forget William Shakespeare. The works of these folk are the patrimony of all English-speaking people, and not of Protestants only. Of course, the fact that Coverdale's psalter and the KJ Old Testament were not translated from the Septuagint presents a bit of a challenge to make them fully acceptable for Orthodox use, but not an insurmountable one. In fact, I am just putting the finishing touches on a liturgical psalter, based on the Church Slavonic Psalter published by Holy Trinity Monastery at Jordanville in 1959, that not only uses the Coverdale Psalter as its foundation, but contains all the kathisma prayers and other liturgical and instructional material normally found in a liturgical ("sljedovannaja" or "augmented") psalter in the Russian Church. I've upload pdf copies of the latest draft to the Occidentalis and Ustav groups at yahoo.com, and would do so here, but I don't know how. FYI, there has been almost zero reaction on either forum, so it may be embarrassingly bad, and I just don't realize it.

David James

#58 Ryan

Ryan

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 837 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 30 May 2009 - 02:39 PM

I would agree with David's opinion above. I would also add that if one says that "classical English" is a "Protestant treasure", one may as well say that Latin and Koine Greek are "Pagan treasures."

In terms of comprehension, almost all of the modern liturgical texts I have seen using "TLE" tend to avoid archaisms, except when it comes to the basic pronouns and verb conjugations, which most English-speakers already understand even if unaccustomed to using them in everyday speech. The fact is, modern English, as it is spoken and written in everyday life, is deeply bereft of poetry; it is chock full of set phrases, cliches, and an overall sense that words are just ways of conveying information without any beauty. What actually passes for poetry nowadays, which gets published in the various journals or read out at ceremonious occasions, is generally lacking in any sense of rhythm, beauty, or sublimity in general. Modern poets tend to fetishize modern modernity; classical allusions only serve occasionally as clever commentary on some utterly banal aspect of everyday life.


So, writing modern English poetically sounds pretty much just as strange as TLE. Crack open any decent modern English translation of the Psalms, Job, or Isaiah, and it will be very clear that this is not the way "normal people" talk. In such cases, the replacement of "thou," "thee", and "ye" with "you" seems like a quaint affectation.

And David, I would be keen on looking at your Psalter translation. I'm also wondering what you think of the KJV-based Michael Asser psalter.

Edited by Ryan, 30 May 2009 - 02:57 PM.


#59 Father David Moser

Father David Moser

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 3,581 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Cleric

Posted 30 May 2009 - 03:10 PM

In fact, I am just putting the finishing touches on a liturgical psalter, based on the Church Slavonic Psalter published by Holy Trinity Monastery at Jordanville in 1959, that not only uses the Coverdale Psalter as its foundation, but contains all the kathisma prayers and other liturgical and instructional material normally found in a liturgical ("sljedovannaja" or "augmented") psalter in the Russian Church.


Are you referring to the Psalter translation done by Fr Lazarus (which is almost completely unfindable anymore!) ? If so, I would love to see it and I will definitely look at your work and see what's there. If you send your files to the listowner here (M.C. Steenberg - Fr Dcn Matthew) he would be able to upload them on the appropriate section of the website (say in the Liturgics forum?)

Fr David Moser

#60 David James

David James

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 91 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 30 May 2009 - 07:54 PM

Dear Fr. David, bless!

The Holy Psalter: The Psalms of David from the Septuagint, translated by Archimandrite Lazarus (Moore), The Diocesan Press, Madras, India, 1966.

No, I'm not; but rather to the Church Slavonic psalter that is standard on the cliros of ROCOR parishes around the world that worship in Church Slavonic. However, I do have a copy of Fr. Lazarus' psalter, lent to me by Prof. Constantine Desrosiers, to which I referred often during the development of this new English-language "liturgical" psalter. By "liturgical", I mean that it has the kathisma prayers, as well as the prayers before and after reading the psalter, instructions for reading the psalter for the departed (which is what the kathisma prayers are for); the Selected Psalms for the polyeleos of the various feast days, etc., etc. The term for such a psalter in Russian is "Sljedovannaja Psaltir'" or "augmented" Psalter, as opposed to a "tolkovannaja psaltir'", or a psalter with patristic commentaries.

I will lend you the copy I have, if you send me your mailing address, but I have to have it back, as I must return it to Constantine eventually. I will be somewhat shame-faced when I do, not only because it has been nearly 15 years since he lent it to me, but because he gave it to me in pristine condition, and it is in poor condition now, unfortunately. That is because the [paperback] original was printed on very high acid content paper, so that now, after more than 40 years, the paper is very brittle. The flimsy paper cover fell off the third time I opened it. Or maybe it was just my sinful hands!

David James

Are you referring to the Psalter translation done by Fr Lazarus (which is almost completely unfindable anymore!) ? If so, I would love to see it and I will definitely look at your work and see what's there. If you send your files to the listowner here (M.C. Steenberg - Fr Dcn Matthew) he would be able to upload them on the appropriate section of the website (say in the Liturgics forum?)

Fr David Moser






0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users