LANGUAGE: Translation problems and power. Interpretation or Translation?

John Heelan takes up the problem of translating biblical texts and extrapolates it to the modern political world:   The question centres on the role of political power being exerted in choosing the appropriate translation or interpretation of  words or texts for secular reasons.  Religious institutions have been the arbiters of the "correct" choice of translations and interpretations.  In biblical studies for example, as Jim Bowman could confirm, for both Jews and Christians throughout their histories, the primary purpose of hermeneutics, and of the exegetical methods employed in interpretation, has been to discover the truths and values of the Bible.  The main hermeneutical methods are literal translation, moral interpretation, allegorical interpretation and anagogical, or mystical, interpretation. Each method requires subjective decisions to be made, not only by the translator, but also by the institutions (countries and others)  that will be affected by the choice of method.   All institutions are at risk of being corrupted by contemporary secular objectives.  Thus the choice of method might well be decided by the need to resolve contemporary secular problems.  Such differences in translations and interpretations chosen have led to schisms, persecutions and even wars between sects and between major religions.

Now bring the problem forward to the modern day.  The UN uses six official languages in its intergovernmental meetings and documents, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish; UN the Secretariat uses two working languages, English and French.  However The recent enlargement of the European Union to has resulted in the EU having twenty official languages. The opportunity for opting for biased interpretations is high.

Is there an increasing need for a nation-independent world-wide language?

RH: Esperanto, etc seem to be lost causes.  For better or for worse, English is the world language. Some people are trying to give it a neutral global name,We are not living up to our responsibilities.  Anti-elitism and TV have spread the grossest forms of English. A worldwide effort is necessary to restore clarity in sound and sense to the English language. Voice recognition developments may promote this. English spelling requires a drastic reform. Voice recognition developments may promote this also.  However, the inertia of the public makes change difficult.  It took the French Revolution to introduce the metric system and to put an end to the old chaos of weights and measures,

John Heelan

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Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: December 5, 2004