This may not improve Bible translations, but it does relate to the challenge of translating meaningfully.
Since Denmark is a small country, the plethora of American movies (and some British films, too) that inundate our living rooms through cables and tubes or LCD screens have Danish subtitles. This is a good way for Danes to improve their English, since they listen to the English dialogue and read the Danish texts at the same time. Subtitles is the most read literature in Denmark. It also means that many people earn their living by translating and writing subtitles. The organisation of “texters” as they call themselves has a website with documented goofs in translation. I’ll give a few below, but sometimes a translator simply has to give up.
I remember a James Bond movie where James was in a lift going up to see the villain in a mansion floating in the ocean. We saw the floor of the lift open up and also saw the ocean beneath him. He managed to spread his legs and stand at a ledge at each side of the lift floor so that he did not fall into the ocean. When he entered the room where the villain sat, James said dryly: “I believe you wanted me to drop in!” The texter gave up on that one.
For the following goofs I shall give an English back translation rather than the actual Danish translation:
The Book of Job – What can I become? (The title of a well-known Danish book series telling young people about job possibilities.)
Jim is a Vietnam vet – Jim is a vet in Vietnam
It’s nice to have an early bird dinner – I enjoy this fowl dinner (English spelling rescued me here. Not natural English, I know. It is a back translation.)
The Spirit of Christmas Present – The spirit of Christmas presents
In these PC times you can’t make jokes about anything – In these computer times you can’ t make fun of anything
You are grounded – You are not allowed to fly (Said by a father to his son).
Everyone relates to her – she is related to everyone
You can say that again! – You can repeat that!
She went to Reading University – She went to a reading class (Cheers to our British literacy friends.)
He hates my guts – He hates my courage
I hope it isn’t my tax return – I hope it isn’t my tax refund
Now you are dating yourself – Now you are having a date with yourself
There are similar examples from the world of Bible translation, but they are not quite so funny, and some are almost tragic.