Saturday, September 10, 2016

Lack of Progress Translating LDS Materials into Additional Languages

Within the past three years, essentially no progress has occurred for the Church in regards to translating basic LDS gospel materials into additional languages. Currently the Church reports 188 "published languages," whereas nearly 20 years ago the Church reported 175 languages with translations of at least one LDS material. In contrast, Jehovah's Witnesses report more than 850 languages with proselytism materials translated - a remarkable 100 more languages than one year ago. There remains a significant need to revamp translation efforts in the Church in order for proselytism, convert retention, and member activity rates to improve in many areas of the world.

Click here for more information on the Church's translation efforts.

41 comments:

Mike Johnson said...

We had a baptism today of a man that I have helped the missionaries teach--last April his wife and members of her family were baptized and I had help teach them a few companionships ago, but Tim was very skeptical of organized religion.

I find it interesting to read this post because as planned I took Tim to pick up his father to take him to the baptism and then back home. As a result I had about an hour in the car with Tim's dad who is a Jehovah's Witness. We thus had an opportunity to discuss and compare religions. I deliberately took him by a Kingdom Hall which was on one of the possible routes and he said "oh, there is the North Stafford Hall." Both Tim and his father Joe suffer from eye issues making it undesirable for either to drive that distance particular with the return in the dark.

Joe asked me "are you an elder in the congregation" and I said "yes, most of the adult men are." Later he asked again, and I responded that I had been thinking about that. "Most denominations have a board of elders or similar that manage the local congregation and if that is what you are asking about then our equivalent would be a ward council. I have on several occasions served on ward councils but I don't do so now. I teach adult Sunday School." (I subsequently found out later that the equivalent of the adult Sunday School teacher sits on the JW board of elders of the local congregation--so I may have confused him).

It was a fascinating evening with a Jehovah's Witness who saw his baptized into the LDS church, listened intently to two sister missionaries tell the story of the restoration, and then after the baptismal service graciously accepted from them a Book of Mormon.

For them, everything is about proselytizing. His son asked him why he used to go to one Kingdom Hall and now goes to another, he said "when we get to about 100 we split." That brought me to remember the discussion about the ideal ward size and some suggesting that 100 was the time to split. He asked me about how we do it and I said we are similar we also split congregations before they get too large explaining the split of our ward a few years ago when we had about 330 attending each week before we split and now we have about 190-200 attending each week. He asked if we had two services and I explained that we had two congregations that share our meeting house. I discovered that JWs also often have 2 or more congregations share Kingdom Halls.

They count an average of about 8 million publishers each year--they don't keep or publish membership stats just publisher stats. Some publishers commit to 50 hours of "preaching" a month and are called pioneers (there are about a million of them). To be a publisher you provide at least an hour a month. Six months of not reporting at least an hour makes one an "inactive publisher."

Although they have a language translation system that provides a computer translation in 750 languages, they have thousands of full time translators in the global and 89 branch headquarters that proof the translations and arrange the formatting of the text and pictures. It is an impressive undertaking. Their small missionary tracts are distributed weekly throughout the world and are key to their work. The Watchtower contains the primary However, the New World Translation is in 129 languages. They claim that their website is in over 300 languages--I counted 290 and while impressive several are very slightly different from each other. Some languages are repeated several times with different alphabets. Seven are video sign languages--which perhaps took more work to produce.

We focus on four missions and they focus on one.

John Pack Lambert said...

In my ward last Sunday we had a baptism of an 8 year old convert. His older twin brothers and his older sister were baptized last November. They were all there for the baptism, and he and his 3 sibblings were all there at stake conference today. He was confirmed at the baptism because they didn't want to wait until after stake conference.

He and his two brothers are the only active African-American males in our ward. We have two adult African-American sisters who come out enough to count as active, but no African-American brethren in our ward except these. His 13-year-old brothers are the only active African-American priesthood holders in our ward.

His 17-year-old brother was at the baptism, and I think I saw him at stake conference. His mom was at the baptism sitting by the ward mission leader's wife, who is probably very close to the age of the boy's mom.

In stake conference our stake president asked us to commit to spending 1-2 hours a month working with the missionaries.

coachodeeps said...

Today we participated in the Utah Salt Lake multi-Stake Conference. One talk by Elder Hallstrom was particularly focused on church growth. He talked about missionary work and family history work and how they work in tandem top further the work of Salvation.

After the conference, I was able to welcome home a senior couple who just returned from serving in Malawi. The brother was quick to point out the country is about 25 to 30 years behind as far as modernization. The people struggle each day just to have the basic necessities of shelter, food and water. Then I asked about the strength of the church there. He said it was strong. The were and are 4 branches in the area. One chapel in the area has pews that even have soft cushions. The other branches meet in rented homes. The branches are growing and they are about 500 people away from becoming a stake.

He said the requirements to be baptized includes the need to attend church 5 weeks. The member's are not joining for the welfare benefits, but because they are converted. He says some weeks there are as many as 20 convert baptisms and they are faithful. They also need to speak and understand English as the are no materials in their native language.

He said they are just starting the translation work for translation of the Book of Mormon to their native language. (I cannot recall the language.)

The couple has already received another call to serve in the Milan mission at a military base.

coachodeeps said...

Chewa was the language. They also served in Zambia.

Eduardo Clinch said...

I thought an 8 year old only counts as a convert if no other member of the family is yet a member. Good to hear about the baptism and attendance.
Hope Malawi grows more, and Burundi and Rwanda...

John Pack Lambert said...

Malawi has 2 districts each with 4 branches.

8 year olds count as converts if their parents are not members. Thus our 8 year old convert a week ago here in Sterling Heights Ward. The status of other family members (siblings, grandparents, etc) does not effect whether they count as a convert.

I was reading President Worthen's semester opening devotional address from last January. He entitled it "It is not Good For Man to Be Alone". His main point was about the need for sociality beyond marriage, and not about marriage (although the former is the context of the talk). He mentioned learning of the Mapuche view of God as 4 individuals, an old man and an old woman, and a young man and a young woman. In their cosmology the devil is viewed as lone and angry. He admitted that how wide spread of historically consitent this view is among the Mapuche is contested by scholars. I still think it means that language-specific outreach to the Mapuche has great value. However it does resonate with some parts of LDS scripture and teaching on both God and the devil.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Yeah, thanks for the reminder on church policy. In my second area, we baptized an 8 year old as a convert (while I was recuperating in the hospital), then her 10 year old sister, then her 13 year-old brother and 45ish mother. 4 in a family, the father having passed away about a year or so prior. They lived about 12-15 minutes from where the new Concepcion will be. Walking.

Rsouthwest said...

There will be a new Stake, just South of Fort Worth, Texas created within the next few weeks. I've heard it will encompass two of the three Mansfield wards from the Arlington Stake. It will have 3 wards from the Ft Worth Stake, and at least one ward, and a branch from the Weatherford Stake. The Mansfield 3rd ward,of the Arlington Stake was created last week, but is not showing up yet in Church stats.

The Spencers said...

Also, if the parents have been members of the church for less than a year then an 8 year old is still counted as a convert (unless the policy has changed in recent years).

The Spencers said...

Also, if the parents have been members of the church for less than a year then an 8 year old is still counted as a convert (unless the policy has changed in recent years).

John Pack Lambert said...

I always thought it counted based on the membership stats of the parents and was not aware of an exception for short time membership.

The Chewa people (the group mentioned in the comment about Malawi) number about 12 million. Besides Malawi Chewa also live in significant numbers in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia. How current the 12 million number is I have not figured out. In 1998 Malawi had 10 million people and by 2013 its population was estimated at over 13 million. The Chewa are 32.6% of the population of Malawi, so roughly a third. While English is the official language of Malawi, Chichewa, the Chewa language is also a recognized language. Chewa was estimated to have 12 million speakers in 2007. This seems like it would be a language that needs to be high priority for translation so I am glad to hear work is progressing on it.

Still Malawi is an underdeveloped country although due to having so much corn and casava production it has avoided food shortages and starvations that have plagued other countries such as Somali and Ethiopia.

Malwai was under a one-party rule with a president for life from 1964 to 1994. Since then it has been under a multi-party democracy. Its politics being pro-western is probably beneficial to the Church.

After the Chewa the next largest ethnic group in Malawi are the Yao who are about 20% of the population. They are mainly Muslim. The Yao were allied with the Swahili states of the east coast of Africa in the early to mid 19th century and engaged in slaving raids against the Chewa. The Chewa are primarily either Christian or followers of indigenous religions. Malawi is estimated to be overall 68% Christian, 25% Muslim and 5% other. This is 2010 estimates while 1998 estimates put the population at only 13% Muslim and 82% Christian. However since these were done by different groups, it is hard to say whether the Muslim percentage is really growing through conversions, migrations and higher birth rates or lower death rates (Malawi has a high rate of HIV/AIDS among other potentially disparate impact problems), or if the assumptions and methods of estimation are just very different.

Jehovah's Wineses number over 89,000 in Malwai, which puts them well ahead of Latter-day Saints. The Church of Central African Presbyterian has 1.3 million members in the country. The number of Catholics in the country exceeds 2 million. The LDS Church has 8 branches in Malawi. The Catholic Church has 8 dioceses or archdiocese in the country.

The first Catholic misionaries came to Malawi in 1889. The first Malawian was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1937. The first LDS missionaries were sent to that country in 1992, and the Church did not receive official recognition until 1995.

MainTour said...

Big news article today in the San Diego Union Tribune highlighting the new LDS YCMS Mission.

L. Chris Jones said...

What's the link?

Mike Johnson said...

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/sep/13/young-church-service-mormon-missionary-program/

BTW, we have a sister in our ward in Virginia with Down Syndrome who was called on a YCMS Mission and her parents were called with her as her companion.

Eduardo Clinch said...

We should get Paul Theroux to help translate materials into the Malawi native language: even though he is a lapsed Christian Catholic by any measure I can tell, he has mentioned LDS missionaries in his literature, sometimes with what seems like a longing or wistfulness for that kind of faith or determination.
I think it would benefit all parties, especially Paul, but of course potentially millions of those who speak...Chewa?

J S A said...

Dokui Cote d'Ivoire Stake (2077396) Created Sept 11 2016

The Opinion said...

Has anyone else heard about the Washington DC temple closing for renovations soon?

Eduardo Clinch said...

It has been closed already for a few weeks. Labor Day on the way to the Philly open house we observed that the Angel Moroni was down, but as of today it is back up! (Not sure how long it was down.) The temple should re-open the end of the month.
Philadelphia should be dedicated around the 19th.
Should check the ldstemples.com website.

Unknown said...

This could be a direct result of the awful platform the Church uses for translation. I'm fluent in Russian, got a degree in Russian. I translated Joseph Smith the Prophet by Truman G. Madsen because I felt so passionately about it. I was so excited to help the Church with translation, but I couldn't make heads or tails out of their translation website. It's incomparably terrible. And I am a software designer too. With the greatest body of multi-lingual members at the ready to help with publications, it's astounding there is no progress.

Gracie said...

Philadelphia Temple will be dedicated on Sunday the 18th. The DC Temple Angel Moroni statue was taken down on August 30th. Here's an interesting article about the history and renovation of the statue:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2016/09/01/at-the-mormon-temple-a-golden-angel-comes-down-to-earth/

coachodeeps said...

I worked briefly for the Church on the Media Services department trying to work out some of the kinks in the project management schedules. When we came to translation department tasks, there were many and the process took the most time for almost all of any given project. We starred meeting with the different departments the project managers would need to interact with and most were able to streamline or adapt their to improve how things ran. The translation department was extremely difficult to get a meeting with and they wouldn't change their schedules at all. The translation management team even knew the system was challenging and archaic. Their biggest focus was trying to keep up with all the projects going and coordinating with the hundreds of translators. They were overwhelmed in many ways. There was not enough energy to work to improve the system, they were just trying to stay afloat. We were unable to make any headway with translation, unfortunately.

coachodeeps said...

There is an extremely interesting room in the Church Office Building that is a museum-like display of the print materials the Church produces and the languages into which they are produced. Each language is categorized into levels. The first level is the pamphlet of Joseph Smith History. Then a second level includes other short materials such as The Proclamation on the Family and the Living Christ. The third or fourth level is when the Book of Mormon is translated.

maklelan said...

Hi! My name is Dan and I'm a scripture translation supervisor for the Church. Many of us are working hard to improve the quality and the breadth of our translation efforts, but there are numerous different factors impacting the work. I'd be happy to answer any questions any of you have about our work (provided it's not confidential info).

Michael Worley said...

Hi Dan! Looking at India's languages, what factors will the church look to to determine translation priorities?

Andrew Matishen said...

Pretty sure the Burleson Texas Stake was created last week as described above.

Maggie William said...

Statistics courses have been sometimes taught by non-statisticians, against the recommendations of some professional organizations of statisticians and of mathematicians. This Blog gives great idea on Statistics Courses. Also get help from Statistics Online Tutoring for your Statistics Assignment from the best Statistics Online Assignment Help at TutorsPoint.com

maklelan said...

Hi, Michael! There are a number of projects underway in India right now, both in scripture and non-scripture. Some of it is introductory material, meaning nothing else has been produced yet, and some of it has been around for a while and is getting updated or revised. The area presidencies decide on the priority and make the requests to headquarters, and they're usually looking at active membership numbers and listening to mission presidents and other local leaders regarding what languages have more pressing needs. The available resources in a given language and in the language offices will also constrain the number of active projects.

Matt said...

Hi Dan,

I have many questions.

1. Is there a list of updated languages with LDS materials?
2. I know it has long been a policy to not translate materials into additional languages until there are a enough members who speak these languages to warrant translations of LDS materials. However, this demonstrates circular logic as oftentimes we do not have many members who speak these languages due to a language barrier and a lack of translations in these languages. What is the translation department's position on this argument?
3. Any new languages with LDS materials?
4. What languages will soon have a translation of the Book of Mormon?
5. What would you say is the greatest success of the translation department in recent years?
6. What would you say is the greatest barrier for the translation department at present?

John Pack Lambert said...

On the Young Church Service Mission article see here http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/lifestyle/people/sdut-young-church-service-mormon-missionary-program-2016sep13-story.html to read it. I have to say I think the phrasing "young people with medical problems and disabilities that prohibit them from serving their 2-year religious missions overseas." I just cringe at this saying "if you are not oversees, there must be something wrong", in part because I actually have heard people say this of people called to serve missions in the US. I know President Hicnkley denounced this attitude.

Beyond this, it is just not the right way to phrase it. The properly phrasing would be "leaving home and serving under the normal missionary rigour" or something like that.

On another note, I knew misionaries in my mission who were far too dismisive of those called on missions like this. There was an attitude these were not real missionaries, etc. These people do very important work, but I still think in some cases we under-utilize their potential as aids to teaching and fellowshiping converts. I know in one of my wards there was an older, married gentleman (well his oldest child was 17 or so, so he was probably not much older than I am now, just older than I was then) who had suffered head injury in a car accident and some missionaries thought he would scare away investigators. The reality tended to be his humor which was just bizarre, and his authenticity, made people feel more at home.

maklelan said...

Matt, I posted a response to your questions a bit ago, but I don't see it here. Don't know what's going on, but I'll be happy to respond again later if the comment still hasn't shown up.

Matt said...

I am not sure why it is not showing up. I saw your comment on my email alerts. Perhaps try to post it as two separate comments.

John Pack Lambert said...

Dan, can you provide us specific information on the status of languages in India, like which ones there are translated information in. My understanding is the Book of Mormon is in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and maybe Kanada. I am not sure the Church has any materials in Bengali and Maratha, which are the languages of Calcutta and Bombay (as well as much larger areas).

maklelan said...

I can't be specific about projects that haven't been announced yet, but we did just approve a name of the Church in Kannada, and we do have a Selections from the Book of Mormon in Bengali and a full Book of Mormon in Sinhala. I'm not aware of anything in Maratha right now.

Bryce said...

Dan, it looks like your responses to Matt's questions never did show up, would you be able to try again? Your responses would be of great interest to myself and others, thank you!

maklelan said...

Ok, I'll try to reproduce those answers as closely as I can.

1. We don't publish a list anywhere, but at languages.lds.org we have links to all the languages with materials online, and we've made a concerted effort over the last couple years to digitize and post as much as possible for our languages. The Church now considers digital the base channel for all its materials. When something new is published, it should show up in pretty short order on those links.

2. As a sidebar, there hasn't been a translation department for several years. Translation is part of the Language Services division of the Publishing Services Department. Now, neither the department or the division or our section (Scriptures Translation) has anything approximating an official "position," but there are certainly members of our groups that feel we would be helping out the missionary work a great deal by doing everything within our power to provide translations as quickly as possible. We don't always have the resources to do that, though. We don't use second-language speakers of target languages anymore, and all members of the translation team must be temple-worthy members of the Church, so this can restrict the available resources. I was asked to evaluate the resources available for a language spoken on Borneo while I was there a few years ago working on another project, but I couldn't find any members who spoke English well enough to actually translate. At the same time, headquarters is trying to give the areas and their presidencies more autonomy to decide what is needed in their regions, and we not infrequently have area presidencies with strong feelings that members in their areas should be trying to learn English rather than getting materials translated into their languages. As an example of how the signals can be mixed regarding translation, Elder Cook spoke in Conference a bit ago and said members should have the gospel available to them in the language of their hearts. We were ecstatic to hear that, since it institutionalized a position that isn't popular in all places. When it was finally published in the Ensign, though, the statement carried a footnote explaining that parents have the responsibility to teach their children the dominant language spoken in their country so that would become the language of their heart. This reflects, in my opinion, a rather America-centric assumption about each country have a single or even a small number of dominant languages, and––again, in my opinion––militates directly against the spirit of Elder Cook's original comment.

maklelan said...

3. I'm not at liberty to talk about projects that haven't been announced yet, but we are working on several introductory phase languages in Africa, India, and southeast Asia.

4. See above. I will say that I'm not aware of any Book of Mormon translations slated for publication in the next year or two that aren't replacing existing translations or Selections, although there are several languages that will be getting full triple combinations where they previously only had the Book of Mormon or a Selections.

5. I would say our Portuguese revision of the Bible (my project and currently the best translation of the Bible the Church publishes) and our Spanish and Portuguese quads.

6. I would say first the administrative distance and the ecclesiastical stigmas that keep honest and helpful information, feedback, and criticisms safely separated from decision makers. Next, our resources are spread pretty thin because of all the non-scripture stuff that's being translated. For instance. we have dozens of languages that will have to dedicate their resources entirely to getting the new integrated curriculum translated as fast as possible as soon as it's done being written. That puts everything else––including scriptures in many cases––on hold. Lastly, I would say the familiarity of area and local leadership with the policies and processes related to translation, and a lack of a consistent philosophy of translation. Every three years we get new leadership in place that might literally cancel all translation projects right off the bat because they want people to learn English.

Bryce said...

Dan, just confirming your answers showed up this time, thank you! Much appreciated!

Bryce said...

Dan, after reading your responses I had a question. You mentioned that the Church now considers digital the base channel for all its materials. In 2011, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) ended restrictions limiting internet domain names to Latin characters, therefore allowing the use of non-Latin characters such as Cyrillic, Arabic, Chinese, etc. Has the Church taken advantage of this to obtain domain names in other languages to publish its online content? Seems like a great opportunity to obtain domain names for key words such as "LDS," "Mormon," "Jesus Christ," in Arabic, Persian, Chinese, Russian etc.

maklelan said...

Hi, Bryce! We have considered it, and we came very close to using other scripts for vanity URLs in other languages, but we discovered that members are still quite accustomed to using Latin characters for URLs, and there could also be issues with fonts and with right-to-left scripts. It could certainly happen in the future, but it's not on the docket right now.

John Pack Lambert said...

Has there been consideration of doing initial translations to some languages not directly from English, but instead from a language that the Church has materials in and there are native speakers of that language who are fluent in it?

maklelan said...

That's very rare, and it usually happens with, for instance, French into indigenous languages in Francophone Africa, or similar Iinguistic situations. It requires a supervisor who understands the language of wider communication, which limits the possibilities.