3 Things Churches Overlook When Offering Translation

May 2, 2017 | Religious Organizations, Vision |

After years of growing up in a bilingual church and visiting many more, I’ve noticed a few things churches may overlook when offering translation. Here are three.

#1: The Translation Experience

Since churches often have a majority language with some bilingual leaders, it’s easy to overlook what the experience is like for people who are not fluent in the majority language of the church. Leaders know the language so it’s difficult for them to experience what it’s like to not really understand anything.

For example, sometimes the sermon may be translated over wireless headsets, while announcements and songs are not because they are considered less important. Unfortunately for the person who doesn’t speak the majority language, they can only politely go through the motions for much of the service without getting much.

Some multilingual churches provide separate language services to give a more convenient experience. However, this approach misses out on the opportunity to create a powerful, Biblical, foretaste of God’s Kingdom where people from every language worship Jesus together.

So here is a thought experiment you can apply to your church. Imagine Jesus showed up next Sunday at your church, a foreigner wearing odd clothes, smelling funny and speaking a language you cannot understand. What would happen to him? What kind of experience would you want to give him?

Or to flip it around, what if you were the outsider–what kind of experience would Jesus give you? How would he welcome you?

This exercise helps you envision the kind of fully translated experience that gives people a royal welcome suitable to the Kingdom of God. Translation goes from being an inconvenient practical problem to a transformative experience that echoes the Divine.

#2: The Value of their Volunteers

The second thing churches may overlook is the value of their volunteers. Translation and interpretation (I use the terms interchangeably in this article) are very difficult tasks that are vital to keeping multilingual communities together. Although bilingual church members tirelessly do their best to accommodate people who need translation week after week, they often go unrecognized and unsupported, unlike guest speakers or other high-profile ministries.

In the business and government sectors, translation and interpretation are highly regarded professions with interpreters commanding rates that can exceed $100 USD/hour because of the demanding nature of the work and their professional standards and regulations (e.g. this and this).

Some churches recognize the unique value of translation by giving love gifts to their translators as they would their speakers. But for many churches who have multilingual needs or desires, even this level of investment can be a barrier to providing translation every week. This term “investment” though is key. When a church recognizes the value of multilingual volunteers, translation becomes viewed as an investment in the community and like any other investment, it produces growth.

#3: The Opportunity to Grow

Conventional approaches to translation make it difficult to grow. For example:

Consecutive interpretation is time-consuming. With two languages, your service time doubles, not to mention half your audience is disengaged half the time because they don’t understand the language being spoken while all the bilinguals are bored because they are hearing the same thing twice.

Chuchotage (whispering in the ear) cannot support more than one or two people and is awkward for the interpreter and people receiving translation.

Simultaneous interpretation via headsets is a hassle to manage (you need to buy enough receivers, keep everything charged and tuned, distribute and collect the receivers, etc.) and it requires the availability of highly skilled interpreters who as volunteers may not always be available or as professionals, may only be affordable for the largest, most high-profile events.

For all these challenges, many churches in America are recognizing that much of their growth is happening in and among multi-ethnic/multi-lingual communities. Ethnic churches and new monolingual church plants eventually have multilingual needs because of new generations and other demographic shifts. So what can be done? How can translation go from being a limitation to a driver of growth?

Conclusion

What if there was a way to lower the bar on what it takes to serve in the translation ministry of a church, so that more people could help out and your most valuable bilinguals would be relieved of their load?

What if there was a convenient way to create a fully localized experience for people to get not only the sermon, but the greeting, the worship songs, the prayers, the announcements, the full worship service experience in their native language?

What if by making translation simple and scalable (so that it can serve 1 person and 1,000 people without much additional effort) this need was transformed from a problem to be solved, to an opportunity for growth–and a foretaste of God’s Kingdom every week?

We believe these what-ifs paint a picture of where God is leading the Church. So in anticipation of this future, we created spf.io as a translation solution for growing multiethnic/multilingual churches that will help them experience the full benefits of their multilingual community and calling.

Spf.io reduces the load on your volunteers (and enables more people to help) through automation, reuse of pre-translated materials, collaborative workflows and other simple tools.

Spf.io enables you to provide people with translation of everything from your slides, bulletins, worship songs, prayers, and of course, sermons.

Spf.io enables you to grow by making it easy to make new languages available, reducing your dependency on real-time skilled human interpreters, and seamlessly scaling from 1 visitor who needs a new language to 1000 new visitors who need multiple languages. You can choose to put up public displays for new languages or simply let people get translation on their personal mobile devices. Spf.io will grow with your community.

If that sounds like a direction you believe God is calling your church, get started below!

Ready to get started?

Get started today and start creating transformative multilingual experiences with spf.io.

Related Articles

A Real-Life Kingdom Foretaste

On February 25, 2017, over 300 people in the Seattle area came together and attended the Cascadia Worship & the Arts conference, exploring diversity, design, and multiethnic worship.

read more

Engaging your audience like never before

As a public speaker, you want to engage everyone in your audience. Whether you are speaking to five or 500 people, you want them to walk away inspired and informed. But often times, you don’t have a lot of control over your setup at your venue and what technology is available to you.

read more

Breaking the Language Barrier in the Lecture Hall

It’s daunting enough for these students to travel thousands of miles and move to an unfamiliar place by themselves. Add to that the challenge of learning in an unfamiliar language, and it is clear that these students would benefit from extra attention in order to ensure they succeed in their education. But how can the teachers, who already have limited time and resources as it is, make their lectures more effective for these students?

read more

To Translate or Not to Translate…

Interacting with many churches, I’ve learned that many leaders wonder about whether or not they should invest in translation. It can seem like an overwhelming complication with unclear benefits. I want to suggest an exercise that might help you think about this question for your context.

read more

A better translated experience in the civic space

Community meetings, town halls, and other events organized by local and federal government strive to provide captioning and translation to individuals in accordance with federal law. But often times this requires two weeks advance notice and can be costly. It may also require extra audio equipment, setup, and preparation. If the organizers are unable to find translators for the event, the attendees might have to settle for less or no translation at all. What if there was a better, more convenient way to communicate with the community?

read more

6 Kinds of Multilingual Churches

When it comes to churches there are several different motivations for multilinguality. Each church may have a combination, but you will likely find a dominant motivation–which one could yours be?

read more

World class conferences for worldwide audiences

Conferences are fun! Meeting so many like-minded people from all around the world. Sharing knowledge, stories, experiences. Networking and discovering new opportunities. Being inspired by great speakers and helped by the momentum of the community. But the moment you try to include people from many languages, the momentum stops.

read more

Why multilingual churches are the future

Multilingual churches have been around since the beginning of the Church. The early followers of Jesus were composed originally of Jews, but quickly grew to encompass people from many nations and many languages. In the book of Acts, one of the first conflicts the church leaders must address is the unfairness in the distribution of food to poor widows–Greek-speaking Jews were being overlooked.

read more
Subscribe To Our Newsletter!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

Thanks for subscribing!

Share This