I’ve been in Taiwan now for over 3 weeks and it’s been kind of lonely at times because finding English-speaking people is not easy. Much of my wife’s family cannot speak English, except for her sister who is a nurse at the hospital. It is amazing how so many people here value the English language. They would love to be able to communicate with someone in English. Since I was yearning to speak to someone in English I set out to find a facet of release. I came here with the intention of starting an English bible study and so I brought with me two bibles in the NLTse. With permission from one of the fellowship’s leaders, I just started an English bible study with a group affiliated with a campus ministry called The Navigators. We had our first bible study last night and we started by looking at Romans 7. I asked them what translations they each brought. Every person brought a different translation: NIV, ESV, NRSV, and I had an NLT. Now I regret not bringing a more formal translation. Being that their English was not at a particularly high level, I too quickly assumed that a dynamic easy-to-understand translation would be more suitable to use in a bible study context. As we got deeper into the study, I found the NLT to be a sort of a hindrance because they were all using a more formal translation than I was using, I quickly reverted to their pulpit bible, the NKJV. I felt more formal with this more formal translation in such a context.
What I have learned is that one must not assume that non-native English speakers will be better off with a dynamic-equivalent translation. It all depends on their level of English training. For those who had a very limited English-language training, an NLT might be suitable but for those with a certain level of English training, I think the T/NIV or ESV is good too. This group of young people obviously had some English-language training. In fact, most young people here know some English. If I had another chance to bring another bible here to Taiwan with me, I would bring my TNIV and even more NASB. It’s a nice balance of formal and dynamic equivalence but yet simple enough that non-native English speakers can understand without much trouble. Around here, English bibles are a little more difficult to come by—especially newer translations like the TNIV. Another thing that I will not forget for the future is that a more formal translation is always better for bible study; especially if you plan to do a more indepth exegetical style of study.