The Bible Translation Process

Step 1   Translation Resources and Training

Every WBTC translation begins with selecting a team of mother-tongue translators who fit WBTC's translation goals and provide this team with the training and translation resources they need to achieve these goals. The most basic resource is the Translator's Source Text (TST). WBTC's TST is specifically designed with the mother-tongue translator in mind. It is a reference tool that allows the translators to see the form of the original Greek or Hebrew text while presenting the meaning as well. The original text is rendered in an English gloss that preserves as much as possible the literal structure of the original language. The TST also provides the translators with notes within the text itself and additional explanatory comments in footnotes. For additional help in understanding the meaning of the text and ideas for making their own translations more meaningful and easy-to-read, the translators are directed to other translations, especially the English Easy-to-Read Version. Some other basic Biblical resources, as well as consultant field visits and WBTC's online "help desk" (email communication with WBTC translation staff), are also provided to give the translators all the basic tools and support needed to produce an accurate and meaningful first-draft translation.

Step 2   First-Draft Translation

Working from the translation resources provided, especially the Translator's Source Text (TST) and the Easy-to-Read Version, a mother-tongue translator produces a first draft translation in the target language. At this point the translation is ready for "team check", where the translation team meets together to listen to each translator read their draft and then provide feedback to ensure that the translation is natural, clear and understandable to their audience.

Step 3   Back-Translation, Evaluation and Editing

After a first-draft translation is judged to be of acceptable quality, another person fluent in that language translates it into English. Using this back-translation, a qualified translation consultant compares the meaning of the target language translation against the original Hebrew or Greek text. The resulting questions and notes begin a long and tedious process of correction and improvement that usually involves other translation consultants, the original translator, and the project editor.

Step 4   Testing

As soon as certain portions of the text are completed, a limited number of copies are printed and tested for readability and for linguistic and cultural suitability among native speakers with a broad range of educational and social backgrounds as well as experience with the Biblical text.

Step 5   Publication

After field testing and revision, the text undergoes careful proofreading and editing to prepare it for typesetting, printing and mass distribution.