Second In-depth Revision of the French Translation

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By Jean Royer

Revising a text such as The Urantia Book is a tremendous task, sometimes more difficult than a new translation. See Seppo Kanerva's article, “The Art of Translations” in the December 2010 edition of Urantia Foundation’s News Online (http://www.urantia.org/news/2010-12/art-translations).

Of course, when seen from the outside, it might appear that a revision consists only of a few rules:

  • Correcting the spelling mistakes and punctuation.
  • Deleting the mistranslations and inserting missing words.
  • Ensuring that consistency is respected throughout the text.

But, when seen from the inside, this is not so. A revision is quite different from a translation; a revision is always a question of “compromise.” The main questions are what to keep and what to change?

The difference between “must be changed,” “should be changed,” “could be changed,” “may be changed,” “is possible,” and “can be kept” is far from obvious.

The members of our revision team were Georges Michelson-Dupont of France, the director, Claire Mylanus of France, Richard Lachance of Québec, and I, a long-time reader from France, who has been revising the text for 45 years. Our work was facilitated by the new revision-translation tool developed by Rogério Reis da Silva, which allowed our team to compare our suggestions and make decisions based on what we considered the best solution. We did keep in mind that even the Trinitized Sons of Perfections “have sometimes erred in judgment.” (244.4) 22:1.13

Anyone who has never done translation work might think that once you have found a fairly good translation for a word, all you have to do is stick to it. Unfortunately, languages are such that a word translated in one way for a certain situation is not always the best translation in a different situation. For example, the English language has the following words: liberty and freedom. Most Latin languages have only one word: “liberté” in French, “libertad” in Spanish, and “libertà” in Italian. So how does one translate these words? Sometimes these words appear in the same sentence as pure synonyms; “spiritual liberty” and “spiritual freedom” are examples. And sometimes “liberty” and “freedom” are used in The Urantia Book with nuances that are not perceived by native English speakers. In the English language one normally speaks of “freedom of speech” but not of “liberty of speech.”

As Emerson said: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Freedom cannot always be translated as “liberté” in French.

Despite our many challenges, after years of regular, diligent work, we reached the end of Paper 196 and experienced great satisfaction. We well know that all translations are an interpretation, and that no translation can be perfect or entirely satisfactory for all the readers. But let us remember that translations are works in progress. Let us remember that new translations and revisions of the Bible are still being done. As we progress in our understanding of The Urantia Book we shall need to make more―but probably fewer―revisions and corrections to the French translation. Nevertheless, we hope that this latest revision of the French translation will help French speakers to expand their cosmic consciousness and enhance their spiritual perception.

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