If you are interested in Bible translation, you have probably heard of such terms as ‘accuracy,’ ‘naturalness,’ ‘biblical languages,’ and ‘key terms.’
In the last couple decades, translators have started using the term ‘translation brief.’
A translation brief is a document which describes the translation project and includes the purpose, timing of the work, participants in the project, and similar information. The stakeholders in the translation project may sign the brief as with a contract or agreement.
The brief should outline the translation goals in terms of which books of the Bible are to be translated and in what order.
The partners in the translation project should also be included in the brief. The number of committees, how members are appointed, and how long someone will serve should also be determined.
What is the audience for the translation? It’s important to specifically discuss who the translation is intended for and the implications for the work.
Furthermore, it is essential to outline the source texts that the translators will work from and the other texts they may consult. Will they work from the biblical languages? Which major translations will they also consult? Is there one translation which exemplifies the kind of translation they want to produce?
The translation brief should also specify what kinds of resources will be included in the finished work. Will there be notes, glossaries, illustrations, book and chapter introductions, and the like?
How will the translation be distributed? Who will cover the cost? Will there be an App? Will it be available in audio format? Or just in print?
Another important topic is the budget. How much will the project cost and how will the funds be provided? Who will receive a salary? Who will be responsible for financial reports?
To learn more about what a translation brief is and how to prepare one, read this resource from the Forum of Bible Agencies International. It’s available in English, French, and Chinese. Here is another helpful article with tips for writing a translation brief.
To learn more about the history of the concept and the theoretical framework behind it, consider reading Christiane Nord’s work, Translating as a Purposeful Activity. She attributes the term ‘brief’ to Janet Fraser, noting that other terms include ‘commission’ and ‘assignment’ (p. 29).
Finally, Katherine Barnwell has a very practical chapter on translation briefs in her textbook, Bible Translation An Introductory Course in Translatoin Principles.
It’s important to work through these topics, and drawing up a translation brief will give you an opportunity to plan the translation project well. Given that a translation project will span several years and involve many people in a variety of roles, it’s essential to have a thorough plan.