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The Cost of “Readability”

If I relay a message inaccurately, does it matter how plainly I speak?


Several ideas ordinarily cluster around the charge [that essentially literal translations are obscure or opaque]. One is the assumption that whenever an English translation is difficult or unclear, the fault can be assumed to lie with the translation and its philosophy rather than being a property of the original text. Related to this is the assumption that when a colloquial or modernized translation is judged by reading tests to be more easily grasped by the population at large, this means that translations that require a higher reading level are obscure.

It is my belief that all modern translations are accessible to a lower reading level than traditional translations are. Not only has readability been elevated to a status all out of proportion to its legitimate place, but it has also been misrepresented. I have moved among people for whom readability is apparently the primary aim of English Bible translation, an error reinforced by advertising for what I will call “easy reading Bibles.” I will state my critique of the readability fallacy very succinctly: what good is readability if what the reader reads is not what the original text of the Bible says? If it is not what the original text says, the so-called readable translation has actually removed the Bible from a reader, not, as it is claimed, brought the Bible close to the reader.

—Leland Ryken, Translating Truth: The Case for Essentially Literal Bible Translation (Crossway, 2005), 73–74 [bold type added].

Posted 2008·08·20 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Inspiration · Leland Ryken · Translating Truth · Translations
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#1 || 08·08·20··11:12 || Daniel

That is what I have always thought - telling you what I think the texts means is not the same as telling you what the text says.

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