Translating tweets into Latin

by Thomas Reese

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In a fascinating NPR interview, Msgr. Daniel Gallagher explains how he translates the pope's tweets from modern languages into Latin.

"Are the Latin tweets a straight translation of the English tweets, meaning is the Latin Twitter feed identical to the other Twitter feeds?" asked NPR's Audie Cornish.

"No," responded the Vatican Latinist, "it's always the same thought, but we do have a latitude of freedom as Latinists because we want to put it in language that is properly Latin, so not simply just a slavish translation from English or Italian or whatever language the tweet happens to originally be in."

The technical term for this way of translating is "dynamic equivalence," as opposed to "formal correspondence," which adheres to a word for word translation.

In the new translation of the liturgy, "dynamic equivalence" was rejected by the Vatican as inappropriate in the 2001 instruction Liturgiam Authenticam, promulgated by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Too bad the English translators of the liturgy did not have the same freedom as the Latin translators of the pope's tweets.

[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasReeseSJ.]

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