Thanks for posting this, and allow me to explain in a little detail. Essentially my idea is to make it as simple as possible, but no simpler. Simplicity itself is not an aim; removing unnecessary obstacles to understanding is.
Let me take one phrase as an example. This is taken from SN 12.51
, with Ven Bodhi's translation. I am choosing this not because it deserves criticism, but because it is the best available.
Apuññañce saṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharoti, apuññūpagaṃ hoti viññāṇaṃ.
if he generates a demeritorious volitional formation, consciousness fares on to the demeritorious.
This is in the context of dependent origination. Let's analyze the Pali as translated by Ven Bodhi, then I will propose a "simple" version.
Here is a discussion of the substantive terms.
apuñña: rendered as 'demeritorious". But puñña is a common everyday word in Pali, while demeritorious not so much. We do get "demerit points" for speeding, so it's not totally obscure. However auto-analysis suggests that only some English speakers will likely know this word. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/demeritorious
Moreover, the examples for usage of the term on wordnik https://www.wordnik.com/words/demeritorious
are from a Hindu book, a book on 18th century Scottish philosophy, and the Summa Theologica. So we've turned an everyday word into something obscure, and for what? Do we actually gain anything from this? I think not.
saṅkhāra: Another important everyday word, this has a variety of nuances and should be translated in a variety of ways. Here it means essentially "intention, moral choice". Notice a couple of things about Ven Bodhi's rendering. He translates what is essentially the same word in two totally different ways in the same sentence, using "generates" and "volitional formations". The two words are, it is true, distinguished by the prefix abhi-, but that hardly does anything. Basically we have the verb and noun form of the same word, a common construction in Pali (and it is not uncommon for Ven Bodhi to translate such constructions in this way). "Generates" is a fine rendering, "volitional formations" not so much. It is pure Buddhist Hybrid English; google the exact phrase and only Buddhist references come up. This might be acceptable if it were an idea unique to Buddhism, but it isn't. It just means "moral choices or intentions", and is a basic concept in any language. The use of "formations" is intended to tie this onto other renderings of saṅkhāra used in other contexts. But it does that job very badly, sacrificing readability for an obscure terminological consistency. This is a holdover from the translation project of Ven Nyanamoli, which heavily influenced the basis of Ven Bodhi's style. In my opinion, saṅkhāra simply doesn't mean "formation", whatever this is supposed to mean anyway. Ven Bodhi has changed this to "activity" in the Anguttara (a rendering I used previously, and urged him to adopt), however "volitional activities" is not much more comprehensible.
-upaga: Rendered as "fares on to", and combined with "the demeritorious". Once again this is an alien, unidiomatic, and highly formal way of rendering a simple concept. It needs a slightly more idiomatic approach.
viññāṅa: I'm not entirely happy with this rendering, and have experimented with "cognition" before; perhaps "awareness" would be best. But I am not ready to change it yet.
There is a further rendering problem, one that is more stylistic. The sentence begins by mentioning a purisapuggala, rendered as a "person". Fair enough; but we notice that purisa means specifically male; and the nouns are likewise masculine. Yet there is, of course, nothing exclusively male about the passage, and this is just the normal way that Pali defaults to the masculine gender. This is a purely grammatical convention; and the relevant grammatical convention in modern English is to use gender-neutral language as far as is possible. There is no one right way to do this. You could use "one", but that is distancing and formal. You could use "they", which is normal in spoken English, and quite acceptable in written; http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words ... ersus-they
also "you" is common in such constructs, and more engaging. I'll pick "they", remembering that the passage has already spoken of "a person", so there will be no confusion in the number.
So I'd suggest translating like this:
If they make a bad choice, consciousness goes to a bad place.
This is, I hope you agree, much more comprehensible. It means the actual thing it says, in language that might be used by an actual English speaker. It is no less precise than Ven Bodhi's rendering, using a syntax that mirrors the Pali exactly. In fact, it sticks closer to the Pali in using common renderings of common words, and also in not using a phrase to render a word.
The rendering "a bad place" is meant to take account of the fact that what is spoken of here is the process of rebirth: bad kamma leads to a bad rebirth.
It loses, perhaps, some cross-context consistency in that saṅkhāra would be rendered differently elsewhere, but we have already seen that this aim is not really achievable, even within the confines of a single phrase. The terminological consistency project is, in the final analysis, only useful for people who want to learn Pali. For someone who is simply reading the texts it is irrelevant, even potentially misleading.
When you read a passage that forces language into such constructions as "volitional formations", it conveys a sense that there is a rigorous terminological consistency, an important matter for which readability must have been sacrificed. Yet the reality is that terms have different meanings in different contexts, and the spectrum of these meanings does not map in any simple way across languages. If you want to point out that the word used here is the same word used with a different meaning in, say, aniccā vata saṅkhārā ("all conditions are impermanent"), then point it out. But you don't need to know this to understand what the passage means.
Ven Bodhi has, in the Anguttara, already severed the connection between these two meanings, since saṅkhāra in this sense is rendered as "conditioned phenomena" whereas in Dependent Origination he uses "volitional activities".
At the end of the day you can only be partially consistent, as we have seen, so it is arguably less misleading to render in a more idiomatic form that doesn't subconsciously try to persuade the reader that the text literally renders the Pali. Better, in my opinion, to translate idiomatically, and use the possibilities of a digital text to enable an interested the reader to easily see what the actual Pali used is.
Anyway, there are many more considerations, and things obviously get more complex when you are rendering large bodies of text. But hopefully this conveys something of the approach I am using.