Held in Hong Kong, October 29 to November 2, and sponsored by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), the conference helped focus on issues related to translation. More than 60 attendees learned about the need for “translation briefs” to identify the source material, the target audience for which a translation is intended, available resources for developing the publication, and the process to be followed. Translation teams wrote goals that they intend to achieve under God’s grace, during the next year.

The presenters at the conference were Dr. Ernst R. Wendland, who has served in WELS world missions for more than 40 years, Dr. Daud Soesilo of the United Bible Society, and WELS chief technology officer Mr. Martin Spriggs.

During the conference Dr. Wendland was asked to share with a wider audience his insights into the nature and importance of cross-cultural publishing. The resulting interview demonstrates many years of experience in the field of Bible translation in association with the United Bible Society.

An interview with Dr. Ernst R. Wendland

Dr. Wendland has been the Language Coordinator for Publications for the Lutheran Church of Central Africa since 1971. He is a visiting professor at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, in the departments of Old and New Testament Centre for Bible Translation in Africa. He is a retired Translation Consultant for the United Bible Societies (1977-2010). His latest book is Lovely, Lively, Lyrics: Selected Studies in Biblical Hebrew Verse (Dallas: SIL International, 2012).

What are some of the issues and circumstances being addressed in this conference?
In this conference we are focusing on the translation of Scripture-derived or -based texts—“Lutheran literature.” We see major developments in the following areas:

  • More non-print, multi-media translations are needed to cater to today’s audio-visual, internet, cell-phone, and tablet-oriented world.
  • More well-trained national translators are taking up the task in the WELS world of missions—many of them are attending this conference—sometimes replacing former missionaries from the United States.
  • The technology of translation is continually developing to promote the more effective management and integration of translation-production teams, for example, through the use of a network of internet-linked computers—a virtual “cyberspace” for sharing, critiquing, and storing drafts in progress; the availability of a hypertext format of pop-ups and optional links to augment the central message being conveyed; and electronic publishing programs for quicker production of completed works, whether in-print or on-line.
  • Finally, something that I am trying to promote this workshop, the careful contextualized adaptation of literature originally written for a rather narrow WELS readership/audience in the United States to “translation-friendly” texts that are more appropriate for readers in other language-culture areas of the world.

Why does it feel like there’s an urgency to invest resources in the translation process now?
By the grace of God, as we witness at this conference, the Multi-Language Publications Committee (MLP) of WELS is currently able to carry out work in many different languages and a corresponding number of culture groups in the world. In many of these places, it is not possible (or we cannot afford) to send missionaries, either on a short-term basis or even at all. Via the internet, however, the whole world is virtually, if not actually, in range of God’s saving Word.  We should make use of these many outreach opportunities that the Lord is giving us both at home and away to present his Word of truth—biblical Law and Gospel—in a text, media, and/or web format that is just right for them. The encouraging thing nowadays is that, whereas in the past these translated publications were being developed for use mainly outside the United States, now, due to all the immigration of diverse peoples and the rapidly changing demographics of the United States, our literature can often serve as outreach material to specific ethnic people groups at home, right in the back yard of many WELS congregations, so to speak.

NEXT PAGE: How will the conference help define WELS translation strategy and implementation?