From Biblical Hebrew to Simplified English: A Mentoring Story

By Tom Castor | January 19, 2022 |

Several months ago, we were asked to provide an internship opportunity for a student doing graduate work in Biblical Languages and Translation. Her desire was to craft a graduate project that would apply Controlled English to build Bible lessons for new English readers. Her work would focus on two of the ‘less familiar’ Old Testament passages she was translating.

Over a period of months, we watched as Arlene worked on translations of the Hebrew texts from 1 and 2 Chronicles. We then provided help as she globalized the content and created lessons to teach the text to new English readers. 

A week ago, we were asked to contribute two paragraphs for Arlene’s graduate evaluation. Here is how those paragraphs looked.

When Arlene requested that Clear and Simple Media assist her in crafting biblical stories from fresh translations of the Hebrew text of Chronicles, we were excited to help. Clear and Simple Media has translated and published simplified English material for past 15 years and, because we write anticipating translation, these story sets and books are now in use in forty-eight languages. To assist Arlene, we sent multiple documents for her review. Some of the documents addressed linguistic aspects of writing in a Controlled Language. Other documents and books introduced the stylistic considerations for writing technical and theological material in simplified English. We sent a significant amount of material, since we initially did not know precisely what materials would be most helpful. As we continued intermittent correspondence through the process, it was clear that Arlene had done a serious review of the material we had sent. 

As the project neared completion, we reviewed the lessons that Arlene had done on stories from 1 and 2 Chronicles and made some observations and suggestions. There were no major translation issues and only a few minor stylistic recommendations. Writing using Controlled English style restrictions takes practice, and it often takes people quite some time to do it well. Arlene’s work showed a clear respect for the translation process from the original languages, a sensitivity to the new English reader, a good understanding of how to globalize content, and an academic approach to the artful science of writing in Simplified English. 

We love helping people like Arlene. While many of our mentoring opportunities are less formal, when they do come along, we are thankful for the privilege.

If you know of individuals or organizations who could benefit from what we have learned about writing in a way that is linguistically simple, theologically clear, and biblically faithful – please let us know.

Tom Castor

Thomas Castor, founder of Clear and Simple Media Group, is a seasoned writer and communicator who has been delivering content with clarity and simplicity for 30 years.