UT2020 – New Testament 2020
If you thought the Bible was of no interest to Finns, you were wrong.
Finnish Bible Society’s ground-breaking translation of the New Testament from the original Greek into Finnish, especially aimed at smart phone users, was completed in October 2020 after two and a half years of work.
UT2020 (New Testament 2020) is aimed at people of all ages who want to read or listen to the New Testament on their phones.
“UT2020 represents a new direction in Bible translation,” says UBS Global Translation Advisor Rev. Dr Seppo Sipilä. “Recently we have become more acutely aware of what the digital revolution means for Bible publishing from the point of view of the end-user. We have reached a considerable milestone on the journey towards increasing quality in global Bible translation.”
“Globally, translations of the Bible have first been published as a printed book and then exported into a digital format for distribution online,” adds Finnish Bible Society Director of Communications and Fundraising Terhi Huovari, who also served as the UT2020 project coordinator. “UT2020’s approach is different: the digital reality, the user environment and the end-user experience were key to the translation process from the very beginning. UT2020 uses the Finnish of the 2020s – language used by people living in a fully digital world.”
Representatives from all church denominations welcomed the new, truly ecumenical translation at a launch ceremony in Helsinki. Due to the exceptional circumstances, the audience participated via livestream.
“If you thought the Bible was of no interest to Finns, you were wrong,” one magazine wrote, referring to a flood of coffee break and social media discussions.
The audio book is definitely a good addition. I know a bunch of people with no relationship to church what-so-ever, that have been listening to it.
The Bible sparks discussion
The UT2020 project was widely featured from mid-2020 in national media, including TV and radio news, newspapers and magazines, and in social media. The experts who worked on the translation have been in great demand, invited to visit parishes and take part in other events, as well as webinars.
“UT2020’s reception shows that the Bible is still relevant,” says Finnish Bible Society CEO Rev Dr Markku Kotila.
How was the UT2020 translation work like?
In the video, external experts, UT2020 translators and members of the ecumenical steering group tell how the translation process went. The video was filmed in the final stages of the translation work in 2020.
Within three month of the launch, UT2020 translation was opened 300 000 times on the Bible Society’s website www.raamattu.fi. On average, users spend more than an hour reading the text.
A year later UT2020 had been read half a million times.
No religious jargon
“People have a right to know what the original text really says. Most of the New Testament is in ordinary language. There are only a few occasions when it uses special archaic language. Jesus did not use religious jargon,” Markku explains.
UT2020 therefore uses language that is both everyday and natural, as well as rich and nuanced. At the same time, the sense of the original language is conveyed as correctly and accurately as possible, while minimising the use of special religious terms or old words that are no longer used in daily communication.
“Our aim was that the translation could be read without consulting a dictionary or Google, or needing help from a theologian,” says Terhi.
The word vanhurskas (righteous), for example, is not found in the UT2020 translation. Instead, the words ‘fair’, ‘just’, or ‘innocent’ are used, depending on the context. Vanhurskas is a special term used by the first Finnish Bible translator, Mikael Agricola, in the 16th century and has had a historical place in theological discussion. However, it has never been comprehensibly rooted in Finnish, but simply passed on from one translation to another.
“The old translation is like an old tube TV – you can still watch it, but the picture is blurry,” notes Lauri Thurén, Evangelical Lutheran Professor of Exegesis at the University of Eastern Finland, who served on the UT2020 ecumenical steering group. “The new translation is a high-definition TV – you can see what’s going on all the time.
“This new translation also sheds more light on the parables of Jesus. Now he himself has a clearer voice, because nothing has been added to the translation that isn’t really there. It may come as a surprise to many people that there’s nothing sacred or stiff about the Bible’s original text.”
The UT2020 method
The New testament 2020 was carried out as a close team effort. Bible society’s translators and the rest of the group of specialist first prepared the translation sections for the steering group for comments. Second phase was to test the translation with actual readers. Only then was the translation finalized.
Target users’ language skills guided the translation
Before translation work began, Finnish Bible Society invested much time in conducting background research and formulating new translation principles. This new approach, developed in connection with the pilot project, DigiMarkus, applies the user-centric translation model to Bible translation for the first time, while also solving how to translate an ancient text into modern Finnish for smart phone users.
The translation was especially shaped by the language used by people aged between 15 and 25. A fictional persona was created, based on various studies. She was called Elisa and is in her mid-twenties. Throughout the translation process, the guiding question was, “What would Elisa think of this?”
However, the target group is not limited to those in their twenties. UT2020 is intended for people of all ages who want to access the Bible on their phone.
“Beautiful, clear Finnish without the old stiffness. A joy to read!” commented Eila, 68, one of many readers who have sent feedback.
As well as ensuring that the language is understandable and natural for the users, careful consideration was given on how best to format the text for use on a smart phone screen, especially when browsing and navigating around the user interface.
Regular dialogues were held with end-users in order to achieve a translation that is faithful to the original language and which resonates with the language awareness of modern people.
Draft translations were presented to selected groups of ordinary readers at various stages, and nearly 3,000 responses were received. They represented people from all walks of life: students, military conscripts, employed and unemployed people, pensioners, men and women of all ages from across the country, regular Bible-readers, and people unfamiliar with the Bible. Their feedback was taken into account during the final editing of the text.
By implementing the UT2020 translation, Pipliaseura wanted to offer a Bible translation to the people of the digital age. UT2020 goes with you regardless of time and place.
In the era of smartphones, a new ability of multi-literacy challenges the traditional text. On the phone, contents are read fragmentarily, browsing and hyping, in contrast to a book, placed linearly between two covers. At the same time, the requirements of findability and accessibility are increasingly associated with contemporary texts.
New testament 2020 makes it possible to find additional information linked directly to Bible passages as well as using helpful features such as adjusting font size and background color.
Publishing the translation as an audio book also makes it more versatile and makes it easier for those who find reading difficult.
UT2020 was printed after all
The translation has been made from the beginning listening to the recipients. A year after the publication of the UT2020 translation, it was also printed as a book, at the request of the public. For some, reading on the screen is difficult. Some people want to read sometimes from the screen and sometimes from a book.
Although the starting point and primary platform for translation is still digital, with the printed version we wanted to listen to these user needs as well.
- Translated from original greek for mobile users
- Conveys the meanings of the original text rich, comprehensible Finnish
- The recipient was the focus of the translation
- Intended for all ages, but the translation was guided by the language skills of 15-25 year olds
- The ecumenical steering group provided feedback throughout the translation process
- Each translation cycle has been tested by readers/users
- Available on the online service Raamattu.fi (text) and the Piplia application (text and audiobook)
- The texts and the audiobook are free, but the audiobook requires registration
The focus of UT2020 is the recipient, that can be simultaniously a user, a reader and a listener. This has contributed to the formatting of the translation text, as well as the orientation of the translation to mobile users, such as the small screen of the phone and the operating environment.
Dialogue with the recipients has been an important principle for testing the resonance between the readers’ sense of language and the text. During the translation, all translation episodes were tested with almost 3,000 readers, and the feedback received was taken into account when finalizing the text.
The text has been tested with every-day readers to make it understandable. During the translation, a total of 3,000 readers participated in testing, and the feedback received was taken into account when finalizing the text.
The model reader named Elisa was used as an internal work tool of the translator group and the ecumenical steering group. The goal was to produce an understandable and rich modern Finnish translation that is as faithful as possible to the meanings of the original text.
These translation principles make UT2020 the only one of its kind, also internationally.
The translation was financed by the Finnish Bible Society and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. Minority churches contributed to the costs in the form of resource costs for their steering group representatives.