Tim Freeman
M. S. Thirumalai

Growth in Short-term Missions Demand Growth in More Focused Skills in Translation

The need for efficient simultaneous oral translation is now felt more acutely than ever. Short-term missionaries and groups of teams that go on short-term missions to nations around the world have increased tremendously in recent times. These individuals do not necessarily come only from North America. It is a common sight to see teams of people of Asia, Africa and Latin America on short-term missions these days. Most of these young and not so young energetic missionaries have some competence in English and some of them are very good at preaching. However, they feel greatly handicapped by their lack of knowledge of the people to whom they wish to carry the Good News even in their short-term trips. They need assistance in carrying out their evangelistic messages the Lord has put in their hearts.

TV Medium and Simultaneous Oral Translation of Evangelistic Messages

Modern evangelistic endeavor heavily uses the TV medium. Telecasts of leading evangelists are viewed with great interest all over the world. For example, God channel in India and other nations telecast the messages of evangelists delivered in large Gospel meetings around the world. Joyce Meyer has become a great success with thousands and thousands of Hindu and Muslim women in India and other nations. While large audiences may not watch many others, the desire to view TV evangelistic preaching is very strong in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Often the viewers have only a smattering knowledge of the language/s through which such messages are delivered. The translation of these messages into the local language often is not in tune with the message itself.

Complaints Against Poor Skills in Translation: Failure to Transmit Passion and Intent in Meaning

Hundreds of evangelists that visit nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America return with the feeling that the real passion and content of what they said had not been truly and effectively presented to their audiences. Even Billy Graham has referred to this hardship in his autobiography in several places. Evangelists have felt that the meaning and message intended by them did not get translated well, even when their message was wholly or most of the time based on Bible texts.

Oral Communication as Primary Means as Emerging Trend Even in Modern Societies

The need for developing talents in instantaneous translation of preaching or any other form of Gospel news is very urgent. Oral communication, face to face in gatherings small and large, and through electronic channels such as TV, has become the primary mode of reaching out to the thousands among the unreached. Such oral communication, when presented in a language not fully or adequately known to the audience, is not effective. Communication needs to be translated quickly and presented with the passion and meaning with which the original message is delivered. This is long-felt need, but, then, why is it that we do not have any good training given in our missionary training?

An Argument in Favor of Designing Courses for Missionary Training

We argue in favor of designing courses that would empower many in the art of simultaneous and direct oral translation. These trained persons will be great asset for the spread of the knowledge of the Good News. The training should begin with an understanding of the basic principles that govern translation in general and translation of the Bible in particular. They should understand the characteristics of inter-personal and mass audience oral communication. Practice sessions should be organized to try out instantaneous translation. They must be given training in voice modulation so that the tenor of the lead speaker is faithfully brought out in the oral translation as well. The translator must follow the speaker and not add his or her own interjections, paraphrases, interpretations or asides. It is possible to organize training in this area that will take the students.

Criticism Against Dynamic Equivalent Models of Translation

The validity of the dynamic equivalence approach to translation detailed in the works of Nida and others has been severely criticized in recent times for their “failure” to be faithful to the literalness of the message (http://www.bible-researcher.com/dynamic-equivalence.html ). Training in simultaneous translation must take such criticism into consideration, while trying to get closer to the nuances understood and appreciated by the audience. Polysemy, homophony and synonymy (apart from homography in writing) come to influence the translation processes even in oral translation.

A Truly Joint Effort

Simultaneous oral translation either on the pulpit or on pre-designed TV programs is truly a joint effort. Both the message giver and the interpreter should be on the same wavelength, so to say. While in the calm atmosphere of dubbing for a pre-designed and pre-recorded message, more corrections could be carried out and improvements made, the simultaneous translation or interpretation while on the pulpit requires more demanding talents. This distinctive feature must be considered carefully.

Translation of the Bible and the Bible-related Evangelistic Literature

It is not given to everyone to become a Bible translator. A Bible translator devotes his or her life to pursue this very essential profession. On the other hand, translation of the tracts, brochures, displays, evangelistic literature, etc., needs skills that need not be identical to the needs of Bible translation. However, the need for the translation of these materials is very high since initial encounters need such literature and thus needs to be designed and expressed with great caution and understanding.


We believe that translation still continues to be a very important aspect of evangelism and that we need to meet the demands through appropriate training in our training programs.

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Tim Freeman
Bethany International
6820 Auto Club Road Bloomington, MN 55438 USA tim.freeman@bethanyinternational.org

M. S. Thirumalai
Bethany International
6820 Auto Club Road Bloomington, MN 55438 USA madasamy.thirumalai@bethanyinternational.org

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