I was reading the transcript of the Bin Laden speech, I noticed that ‘Allah’ was used in the translation, instead of ‘God’. I know I’ve mentioned this phenomenon before, but I thought it worth cogitating over for another while.
Suppose you had a cadre of French Christian terrorists (implausible, but bear with me), and their leader gave a speech about how God had inspired them to blow up Madame Tussauds. Would it be a reasonable to leave ‘Dieu’ untranslated?
Let’s complicate this a little further by introducing the fact that previous English-speaking French Christian terrorist sympathisers often leave ‘Dieu’ untranslated themselves when they’re speaking to English-speaking audiences. What, then, is the correct approach to take when translating the words of a speech made in French that makes references to ‘Dieu’, when the ‘Dieu’ in question is the same as the one who appears in the Old and New Testament?
I would be inclined to translate it as ‘God’, since you’re not just translating things word by word, but attempting to bring the entire meaning of the speech across. That would mean translating, as far as possible, the impact of how all the words of the original are related to each other.
The question then remains of whether you should perform the additional task of rendering things in a register and vocabulary with which the target audience is familiar, or perhaps try and anticipate what the speaker might have said had he been standing before the target audience speaking in their native tongue. I think that this sort of thing is moving beyond translation into something else: a sort of editorial service.