A Guide To Translating Religious Texts
Religious texts are some of the most difficult to translate since they often involve specific language uncommon in daily use and are frequently cited by many as the foundation of their beliefs and moral compass. A mistranslation of a single word could easily have two people, unified in faith and living just across the border from one another, believing completely different interpretations of the word of their spiritual leader. The archaic language makes these texts hard to translate and the cultural significance of religion in guiding many throughout their lives makes the need to hire the right translator of the utmost importance.
What to look for in a translator?
When searching for the right translator to localize your own spiritual texts or the texts of your religion, there are some things that you have to consider in advance.
First, you need to find an expert, or a believer, or, for the best results, a combination of both. When choosing someone to translate religious content, it is often best to find someone who actually believes in the ideas presented in your text.
This is true because someone who agrees with and believes in your text and the religious tradition it comes from will take great care in translating it the best way possible to keep the main message and its nuances in tact.
They will have a personal motive beyond the financial and reputational incentives associated with doing a good job, the preservation and spread of their beliefs across borders, to motivate them to offer the most accurate translation.
That person will also know, due to personal experience and study, enough information about the religion in general to translate everything properly to keep both the tone and intended meaning in tact in your target language.
What not to say in your RFP!
However, this doesn’t mean you exclusively need to work with someone who believes in the relevant religion in order to get a good translation. In many cases, going out seeking only translators who believe in that religion can be construed as discriminatory and can prevent you from finding the perfect translator for your project who just may not personally believe in that religion.
There are many linguists who are also religious scholars or very knowledgeable in at least one religion (more knowledgeable than many average believers in fact), making them more than qualified to translate your new spiritual book or new edition of an original religious text or direct spiritual quote.
When searching for a translator, first and foremost try and find someone who is both a qualified linguist and an expert in the relevant religion. If they themselves are an adherent, that is a good extra, not a requirement though.
Above all, the translator should not only be an experienced linguist but someone who is willing to work with the needs of their clients in an unbiased way.
Religious translation accuracy could potentially be diminished should an inexperienced translator let their independent beliefs which conflict with the text affect their interpretation, thereby creating a meaning which is both different and incorrect when compared to the specific meaning of the client.
Prior religious translation experience is a must and a belief in the relevant religion is a plus however, the intended meaning and the personal beliefs of the client who provided the text must always come first, even if they conflict with the translator’s personal beliefs.
Be sure to find a translator who is able to complete work without personal bias and is open to clear and consistent communication to make sure nothing gets lost in translation.
You, and your appointed translator especially, need to recognize that the intended meaning of words in religious texts are often radically different when compared to their typical meanings. Though a word may seem familiar and common, one must recognize its unique meaning in the context of the text.
The intended usage of a certain religious word might, for example, differ between Christian and Muslim sources.
It is important to recognize this to convey the correct interpretation in every language. In order to recognize this and avoid any kind of gross error, you have to find a translator who is certifiably experienced not only in translations and linguistics but in religion as well.
For the best possible translation, find a translator with a clearly defined speciality who works for a firm with just one language pair. Translation firms which work with a number of languages often hire people who are ‘practically fluent’ in a number of languages rather than people who are really qualified in the language pair you want.
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To make sure your translator is more than qualified, be sure to only work with firms which specialize in one language pair, even if it means using different firms for different translations.
This way, you will know everyone working on your project is best in class when it comes to your translation since firms specializing in one language pair only hire the best of the best in that language pair.
They actively encourage their translators to only focus on that language pair rather than engage in the futile effort of trying to study and translate between a number of languages at once.
It is also important to get to know and communicate directly with the translator or translators who will be working on your project to make sure they are specialists with a lot of prior experience in working with religious texts.
To guarantee this, try to find a translator or translation firm which only works with texts that fall under one religion.
Just like with finding a firm that only works with one language pair, working with a translator extremely familiar with just one religion will ensure that your project is in the hands of someone who exclusively specializes in the subject area you need.
Your ideal translator should be fluent and working in just one language pair, have a thorough knowledge of just one religion (the religion of your text), and have an extensive knowledge of that religion’s main holy book along with relevant textual information for the period that book comes from including knowledge regarding the culture, foods, climate, and even agricultural practices of the people who wrote that book and first practiced that religion.
The perfect translator for your project is also one who works without the use of machine translation tools since those tools often produce flaws which even the most experienced users miss. This is especially important when dealing with the unique language usage and cultural sensitivities of a religious text so a 100% human translation is a must here.
Finding a translator and going through the process of getting your text reproduced and distributed in another language can seem like an unnecessary hassle, but it is well worth it and there are many reasons why you should translate.
For one, you will be able to spread your message to more people across the globe. By speaking to people in their language, they will feel more connected to your ideas. This will help you convert more people into believers and will allow you to incorporate some of the good moral codes of your text into the lives of many more people, making the world a better place.
However, in every religion, there will be some orthodox members who only believe the original text, in its original language, to be valid. If you hire the right translator and are able to produce a good translation, these people should not be a concern, especially since the idea that only the original language of a text is valid is extremely counterintuitive to the goal of pretty much every religion: to spread the good word and convert others.
By taking the initiative to work with a translator, you will be able to better achieve this goal for the benefit of all.
Thankfully, with the help of a translator, it won’t matter if your reader doesn’t understand English or, on the flip side, only understands English.
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Finding the right translator for your religious content can be difficult and actually translating it can be even more stressful if you don’t hire the right translator. The resulting text could be delivered behind schedule or, worse, with gross inaccuracies and mistranslations which skew the true meaning of the text and what it is supposed to teach.
However, taking the initiative to find a translator for your religious project is a task you must undertake not only to spread your ideas across borders but to potentially convince more people to convert or simply live a more morally-guided life. This process is essential and can be quite daunting as well but doesn’t have to be, if you fall into the right category.
If you are looking to translate a Christian text between the French and English language pair, your search can stop now. Sunderland Translations is the guaranteed best choice for anyone whose project meets these criteria.
The translators at UK-based Sunderland Translations all only focus on the English and French language pair so they are all experienced linguists when it comes to those languages.
Additionally, for religious texts, the translators you will be working with solely focus on the Christian ideology. They are all incredibly well versed in the Holy Book, are veterans when it comes to working with new religious texts, and are true scholars when it comes to Christianity meaning they know everything they need to in order to get the job done with flying colors.
Additionally, Sunderland Translations’ religious translators are adherents to the Christian faith so they will be able to work with you and will be motivated to help you clearly convey your positive message into your target language.
Though they are Christian believers, they are able to bring an unbiased mind to your project when needed to make sure the beliefs of your specific subset come through clearly and accurately after translation.
The people at Sunderland Translations are motivated, friendly, able to meet tight deadlines, and always there to provide you with updates on the status of your project.
Your translator will not just work for you, your project, and your best interests but will work with you as well to ensure you get the exact interpretation and translation you need and to ensure your beliefs are presented in the best way possible, even if they are unique to you or your branch of Christianity.
Translation work at Sunderland Translations is all done with an unmatched drive for perfection and are 100% human, an important factor especially when working with sensitive religious texts. Sunderland Translations does not use machine translations and instead provides carefully conducted and curated human translations.
Sunderland Translations has years of experience working with all kinds of religious texts and spiritual books including Dr. Dana Carson’s notable book, “Welcome to the Kingdom”. So, what are you waiting for? Your text or book can be the next well-received religious translation which serves as a tool to inspire millions around the world, with a little help from Sunderland Translations of course.