Author Archives: David Frank

descriptive linguist, linguistics consultant, translator, editor

Hearts and minds

Mark 6:45-52 is the familiar story of Jesus walking on the water, which comes right after the story of the feeding of the five thousand. The narrator in v. 52 concludes that the disciples might have understood how Jesus could walk on the water if they had been able to really understand that he was […]

Translator in the translation

This is an interesting meditation on Bible translation: First, it is a notice about yet another English Bible translation becoming available, and then a commentary on that. I’m not really aware of this new translation from Thomas Nelson Publishing, but Rev. Ken Klaus of Lutheran Hour Ministries reveals a few things he knows about […]

What is Your Translation Metaphor?

A classic article in communication studies is “The Conduit Metaphor: A Case of Frame Conflict in our Language about Language” by Michael J. Reddy (1979). In our way of thinking about language, we seem to have an image in mind of packaging our thoughts into words and then sending those words across to someone else […]

Vernaculars and Lingua Francas, Part Two: Translation Implications

I have already explained something about vernaculars and lingua francas. They are not two types of languages, but two uses of language, depending on whether or not the language is the mother tongue of the speakers or is an “other-than-mother-tongue” that speakers use to communicate with each other. I wouldn’t say that there is a […]

Vernaculars and Lingua Francas, Part One: Foundations

I have an interest in lingua francas (or linguas franca, or linguae francae, or whatever). The phrase means, literally, “language of the Franks.” The explanation is that from an Arabic perspective, all Europeans were “Franks.” In the first half of the Second Millenium, there was a specific language form called Lingua Franca, a Romance-based pidgin […]

Does a Translation Have to Sound like a Translation?

I raise the question of whether a translation should necessarily and inevitably sound like a translation because there are people who seem to think that this is the case. That is, since the translation takes as its starting point a text in a foreign language–if it weren’t “foreign,” we wouldn’t be translating it, would we?–and probably […]

The incarnation of the Logos

There is nothing so profound and so beautiful as the beginning of John’s Gospel. Mirroring the beginning of Genesis but conscripting the language of the Greek philosophers, John begins, “In the beginning was the Logos.” My own style is more like Luke’s: “The time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth […]

It is easier for a hippopotamus to…

I recently returned from Africa, where I was working with a translation of the Gospel of Luke into a language that has had no previous Bible translation and a culture that has had very little contact with Christianity. I was not responsible for producing the translation into this language, but I was responsible for evaluating […]

Accurate but not Clear?

A standard that most of us who are involved in Bible translation hold to is that a translation must strive to be clear, accurate and natural. That is the ideal, though sometimes a trade-off is involved. These are the three criteria for a good Bible translation. Sometimes acceptability is added as a fourth criterion. I […]

Reflections on the nature of Bible translation

I have been strangely quiet on this blog for a long time now. Part of the problem is that I don’t have much that I want to say about the particular wording of English Bible translations. I am much more interested in the bigger issues, like the philosophical, theological, theoretical, cultural and sociological dimensions of translation. I see […]


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