This morning I went to lay down a very straightforward thesis: pastors should never learn to translate! Quite simply learning the languages for the purpose of translation is counterproductive. There are many great, clear, and sufficient translations of Scripture. Those who simply learn Greek only for the purpose of providing another translation among many are Wasting Their Time! Why then should prospective ministers subject themselves to the task of learning Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic? The reason is because it helps in the task of understanding the text. Reading the Bible in the original languages provides a first-hand glimpse at the human words of revelation that God has chosen to use to communicate to these people. Anyone who is able to read these texts in the original languages is able to analyze them without the interference of any secondary interpreter. In other words, reading in the original languages provides an overall understanding and comprehension of the text in a way that is fresh and personal. You see, the pastor is concerned about how he is going to communicate God's word to God's people and is not primarily concerned about the further establishment and the publication of new translations of the Bible. A translation is a conclusion of a scholar/pastors understanding of a text. In other words, the purpose of a translation is to demonstrate how one understands the meaning of the text.
Does this mean that we should not learn how to translate? Absolutely not! The purpose of translating is not just pushing out a final product. That is just one kind of translation. There actually to other kinds of translating that one should be aware of. The first kind is "whole glimpse" translation. This is the first translation that one will make of the text to the best of his ability. In other words, the translator is not concerned about pushing out finally polished and scholastic prose, rather he is merely concerned to try to get a sense for the whole. This task asks the question: what is this entire text about – what does it basically say? The second kind of translation is what I call "dirty" translation – this is the task of simply making sure that you have translated the whole text and included all of the parts in your translation, even if they don't make sense. Your task is to find everything that which is initially untranslatable. In this task you are looking for all of the points of ambiguity, which you will need to spend more time on in order to understand clearly. These two tasks ideally won't take you that much time – depending on your level of competency. Even if you aren't extremely competent, the point here is not to spend a lot of time on the text! The final translation is your final product – this will take more time to produce. This is the translation that is produced out of all the work that you put into understanding the nuance of every word and the significance of every grammatical piece.
I would conjecture that many students of the languages get to quickly frustrated with themselves when they discover they are unable to push out a highly polished translation in a single act of translation. The problem here is a misunderstanding of the purposes of translating a text and the purpose of understanding the text in the original languages. If one can keep in mind of the larger goal of understanding the text, then one can become comfortable with the rough and dirty translations that must be produced in order to attain a higher goal. Otherwise you'll be wasting your time.