Total Link: The Power of Alignment for Bible Translation

This presentation will focus on alignment, which is the most distinctive feature of the system used by the Global Bible Initiative (formerly known as Asia Bible Society) for Bible translation. We will examine some examples where the alignment data is used in the translation of the Chinese Standard Bible Old Testament to illustrate the power of alignment for Bible translation. Alignment is the process whereby the texts of target languages are linked to the source language text word to word, phrase to phrase, or clause to clause. The linkage can be one to one, one to many, many to one, or many to many. The result is an inter-related translation memory with the source language in the center, acting as a bridge between all target languages. Alignment can be static or dynamic. The alignment to existing translations is static. They are done once for all. The alignment to an ongoing translation is dynamic. It is constantly updated as the translation is revised. The linguistic units in the source language function as the key or “common reference” for a group of equivalent linguistic units. In other words, this common reference links the corresponding parts in different translations. The links can be internal, pointing to the equivalent parts within the same translation, or external, pointing to corresponding parts in existing translations. Common reference then allows what I have dubbed "total link": easy access to commonly-referred units, evaluation of the commonly-referred units, & coordination in sharing data for these commonly-referred units. By virtue of syntactic parsing and segmentation information from the Hebrew syntax trees GBI has concurrently produced, the resultant translation memory is a tree-based translation memory that has identified linguistically-relevant multi-word spans of texts and useful translation units. The external links in the static translation memory created by alignment enables GBI’s translators and editors to quickly see what existing translations have done for a word, phrase, clause, or verse. Through the common reference, a summary can be created in real time for each linguistic unit and the translation choices already made in those units. The internal links in the dynamic translation memory keeps everyone in the translation team on the same page. With the common reference, translators working on different parts of the Bible can always have a bird’s eye view of the whole translation, sharing their work and avoiding duplicated efforts. Once a decision is made on linguistic units, it can be applied or referenced throughout the whole text. The alignment data also makes it easy to keep track of the revision history, create checklists, and implement approval flows. Finally, the alignment data provides real-time concordances and reverse interlinears, which enables us to quickly and reliably evaluate the faithfulness of the translation. On the basis of the common reference, we can instantly check the consistency of the translation, catch omissions and additions, and compare the new translation with existing translations.