Foreignising Bible Translation Retaining Foreign Origins When Rendering Scripture -- By: Andy Cheung

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 63:2 (NA 2012)
Article: Foreignising Bible Translation Retaining Foreign Origins When Rendering Scripture
Author: Andy Cheung

Foreignising Bible Translation
Retaining Foreign Origins When Rendering Scripture

Andy Cheung


This article considers the notion of foreignisation with respect to Bible translation, a concept originating with Schleiermacher but re-popularised in the 1990s by Lawrence Venuti. ‘Foreignising translation’ aims to relocate the reader in the world of the source text and attempts to make obvious the alien origins of the original text. It therefore differs from ‘domesticating translation’ which seeks to create a target text with expressions and style more in keeping with target readers’ receptor world conventions. Although foreignisation has long been established as a recognised translation strategy in ‘secular’ translation studies, it is less commonly considered with respect to Bible translation. This article discusses the benefits of foreignising translation in the task of rendering Scripture, albeit within a framework known among translation theorists as ‘skopos theory’, whereby multiple translation styles are permissible, depending on their usage and function in a target community.

1. Introduction

In ‘secular’ translation research, Lawrence Venuti advocates ‘foreignising translation’, whereby the foreign origins of the source text are made conspicuous in the translation.1 This differs from the practice of what he calls ‘domesticating translation’ which seeks to produce fluent, easily understandable renderings typical of everyday literature in the target audience culture. Such domestication is strongly

criticised by Venuti who urges translators instead to render texts in such a way that readers may identify the foreign origins of the translation.

But some would argue that Venuti goes too far in his all or nothing approach to translation theory. Rather than advocating just one approach (i.e. foreignisation), the translator should consider the merits of both foreignisation and domestication, depending on the purpose of the translation. That is the perspective taken in this article: if the goal is to inform the reader of the source culture and make obvious the remote roots of the biblical text, then foreignisation is preferable. But often, particularly in Bible translation, the aim of a translation is to enable the reader to understand easily the essential message of the text using expressions and terms common in the readers’ contemporary target culture. In such situations, foreignisation is less helpful and may even be harmful if it impedes the target readers’ usage of the translation. So both approaches are acceptable, what matters is determining audience n...

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