Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Translation theory in action

Has anybody else noticed a trend away from the idea that English is a perfect object language for expressing religious items coming from the church’s translation department over the past half-century?

Consider German: Full-time missionaries used to (up until sometime after the mid-twentieth century) be referred to as Älteste+[last name], because Älteste is the usual translation of the English word Elder. This was even sillier than the English Elder+[nineteen-year-old’s last name], though, since "Älteste literally means oldest. Now, though, the church in Germany uses Elder+[last name] for full-time missionaries, which in my opinion works much better, since Elder doesn’t have a preexisting meaning in German. (And this change wasn’t just a change in general use—it even extended to the nametags.)

Also, starting sometime in the eighties or so, Endowment started slipping out of use as the German word for the temple endowment, replaced by the much more descriptive-in-German word Begabung.

Maybe there’s some hope for the higher-ups someday recognizing that English might need some translations of its own, or at least a move away from certain archaic-but-found-in-the-King-James-Version terms…


The Margin Wight said...

I used always to giggle to myself when members in Flemish-speaking Belgium referred to the "Elders" because "elders" means "elsewhere" in Flemish. We were always somewhere else.

Michelle said...

This sounds similar to Romania. Missionaries there used to be called "Varstnicul ___". That technically means "Elder", but implies advanced age and wisdom. It's still used as a title for the members of the Quorum of the Twelve, but now missionaries are called "Elder ___".