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3 Goals as we translate

I was recently asked: “How are you adapting FamilyLife resources to reach the Spanish-speaking community?” I thought I’d share my response with you.

Forbes Magazine published an article in 2021 stating that “Spanish is spoken by more than 559 million people globally. Of those, 460 million are native speakers, making Spanish the language with the second largest population of native speakers in the world… In the U.S., 13 percent of the population speaks Spanish at home…”

The three primary goals of FamilyLife’s translation process are:

  1. International usability.
  2. A tone of grace and honor.
  3. Theological accuracy.

International Usability

With 21 countries and dozens of cultures having Spanish as the official language, a common phrase in one country might be highly offensive in another, or it could be complete gibberish. In order to ensure that the resources will be universally understood and internationally accepted, every project passes through the approval process of at least three countries: a translator, an editor, and a proofreader each from a different country.

Then the translations come back to the Global Office where we concentrate on two final areas: (1) a tone that is consistent with FamilyLife’s ministry, and (2) biblical instead of psychological terms.

A tone of grace and honor

While working on the Love Like You Mean It video course (Ama de verdad), we discovered that reading something engages the logical side of your brain, but hearing it spoken by a human voice opens up an emotional response that isn’t there when you’re just reading it.
The translators, editors, proofers, and myself (from 5 different countries) had all signed off on the transcripts for the dubbing the videos. As I listened to the Spanish version, the parents are talking about allowing their daughter to go on a missions trip: Do you know anything about the hospitals in Honduras? What if something goes wrong?

In English it sounded fine. The written Spanish translation had been approved without question by everyone. But when I heard the video, my heart sank! I grabbed that 10-second clip and sent it to the translators. They all agreed: It was perfectly acceptable as text on the page - logical questions any parent would ask. But hearing it out loud in Spanish was an insult to Honduras. So we had that section re-dubbed to convey the same parental anxiety without offending all of Central America: She’s too young to travel without us. What if she gets hurt?

Theological Accuracy

We are responsible for the accurate translation of the theology that the Content Team works so hard to get right.

Our translators and proofreaders are Christians, but most are not theologically trained and for example, are not very particular to distinguish between sin, sinner, sinful, sinfulness, sinful deeds and original sin. So it is easiest to avoid the term "sin" altogether, and translate it as "self-centered" or "less spiritual" or "misguided," etc.

Many translators tend to use psychological terms instead of biblical terms, such as innocent vs sinless, self-realization vs spiritual maturity, behavior modification vs obedience to God, emotional vs spiritual, etc. The longer the translators work with us, the more theological on-the-job-training they receive.

In Gen. 2:18 where God created Eve as a helper for her husband Adam, the translator used a workplace term for “helper” instead of the biblical word. I told him we need to use the biblical term. But he objected, saying we need to use more relatable, modern language. I suggested, “Read that sentence to your wife. Let’s get her take on it.”

She was horrified. “We can’t teach women that they are errand-girls! I am your helper because I am honored to be the woman that God created me to be, but I will never be your errand-girl!

Those are some of the reasons we have multiple countries involved in the translation process, with both men and women, and then the Global Office edits the translations for the tone and biblical accuracy.

God Stories!

The God Stories surrounding FamilyLife’s ministry in Latin America are a huge encouragement to keep at it! 

While dubbing the Like Arrows movie in Spanish, the actor voicing the “prodigal son” tribute speech burst in tears during the recording. He felt so personally identified and was so moved that they had to take a break. 

From the Dominican Republic, Pastor Mendez confided: “I was convicted this week that as a husband, I have not been representing Christ to my wife, and that begins to change today!”

In Panamá, Pastor Balo pulled me aside to say thank you: “My wife and I came here with no hope. We were not going to get divorced, but we haven’t had any joy in our marriage for several years. No joy and ho hope. We were just resigned to a marriage without happiness. But what you have taught us this week has given us a new vision. We leave here with real hope for our marriage, the spark of joy restored to our family.”
With gratitude,
Roger and Laura Dye
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