Bible Translation Seminars

Bible translators are constantly seeking to master, retain, and update all the knowledge and skills they need to do their work well. As part of its ongoing and expanding program of professional development services, the Nida Institute provides training seminars for several Bible agencies’ translation staff, among them the United Bible Societies, SIL International, The Seed Company, Bible League International, and Biblica. A regular series of week-long seminars on topics ranging from globalization, new media and translation technologies to semiotics, cultural studies and biblical studies helps to bring these professionals up to date in research areas crucial to success in their task.

While some of these seminars may stand alone as training modules, other complex themes are being developed in a chain of related gatherings. Such themes include the challenges of intersemiotic translation and the growing impact of changing technologies on translation work.

Intersemiotic Translation Seminars

Increasingly, mass media, pop culture, and digital technologies have changed the communication strategies and channels available to Bible agencies and churches. To address the particular case of Bible translation in this new communication and information culture, the Nida Institute has convened a series of seminars on intersemiotic translation. The Institute chose this topic because it believes that modern semiotics offers Bible agencies and their translation staff a valuable tool for developing and assessing translation in a post-print environment. Semiotics opens new avenues for recognizing, prioritizing, and selecting signs and meaningful structures, which is crucial for working Bible translators.


This third research seminar, held in St. Louis in October 2013, continued the trajectory set by the previous two, further investigating innovative interdisciplinary approaches into the research and production of Bible translation ‘beyond print.’ Semiotics remained an important theoretical support, but those present sought to complement the gains of semiotic theory through the inclusion of two other related areas of research and theory: Oral Tradition and New Media. These two seemingly disparate areas of research have been linked by the research of John Miles Foley who initiated the Pathways Project. “The major purpose of the Pathways Project is to illustrate and explain the fundamental similarities and correspondences between humankind’s oldest and newest thought-technologies: oral tradition and the Internet.” This third research seminar set its starting point at the research done by Foley and his colleagues and then moved on to ask how this research and related newer developments should inform Bible translation theory and practice.


This second seminar in the series took place in April 2012. Discussion focused on the idea that, in the language of ancient rhetoric, media translation in all its aspects – text, audience, production, evaluation – requires of the Bible Societies an intentional investment in ethos, logos, and pathos. An investment in ethos, first of all, is a reaffirmation of the character of the Bible Societies and their commitment to providing the Scriptures in multiple languages and formats. A second investment in logos is a reaffirmation of the need to critically study the audience and its needs with the same diligence we use in studying the source text. Finally, an investment in pathos is a reaffirmation of the need to treat engagement not as a hoped-for consequence of Bible translation, but as a feature intentionally designed into every project in light of a true appreciation of the complex nature of ‘text’, a deeper understanding of audience, an acceptance of production steps far different than those required by the print medium, and a willingness to trust assessment tools and processes tailored to media presentations of the Bible.   


The work of two renowned Italian semioticians (Umberto Eco and Paolo Fabbri), paired with recent research in the field of cultural studies, helped to shape the main presentations at this first seminar on intersemiotic translation, which convened in Misano, Italy, in March 2011. Lectures by the other subject matter experts looked at translation from a wide variety of contexts and disciplinary perspectives: communications, linguistics, text criticism, and skopos, as well as ethnomusicology, performance studies, sign language, orality and media.

Translation Resources Seminars

With every passing year, the resources and skills needed to carry out effective translation work are becoming more sophisticated and increasingly diverse. To address the growing need for these resources and skills, the Nida Institute has organized a series of seminars to discuss and explore the challenges that the search for such resources presents.

Translation Resources

Experts in the field of Bible translation (biblical studies, consulting, software, and internet technologies) met in October 2012 to discuss the future of Bible translation resource development. 

Clearly the 21st century is posing healthy, new challenges for both translators and Bible agencies, the first among them being that the majority of Bible translation work is now being carried out by people from the Global South. For many of these translators, indigenous languages are their mother tongues, with national languages being the second or third learned. Any knowledge of English may come well after that, if at all. Most existing translation resources, however, were produced by Western scholars for people with graduate-level English and knowledge of Western culture, and so are of limited benefit to those currently carrying out translation work.

Modern technologies, however, offer new possibilities for both content generation and delivery of fresh translation resources. Highly relevant, contextual, and locally-authored resources can be created, edited and delivered using a variety of media. As a result, we are not limited to simply translating or adapting existing resources, but can begin to develop new helps and materials which will contribute to the enhancement of translation quality while making use of contextually-appropriate delivery methods.


Face-to-face learning opportunities are limited in both time and space, but new technologies have opened up the possibility of stretching learning experiences well beyond student-teacher interactions in a classroom setting. Two gatherings in 2012 – the first held in Reading, England, and the second in Misano, Italy – brought together representatives from a number of Bible agencies (among them the Nida Institute, UBS Global Translation, SIL International, The Seed Company, and the Netherlands Bible Society) to collaboratively explore how distance learning platforms could be used to effectively improve training for Bible translation. The result was the creation of the virtual learning environment now known as MAP (‘Modular Aggregation of Principles’ for Bible translation).