Lost in Translation

I recently had the privilege to lead a team of 11 people on a two week, short-term mission trip to Ghana, West Africa. A favorite part of my job is to encourage people to participate in international ministry opportunities. These opportunities are rich is so many ways. One benefit is that you can establish deep relationships with the team and the nationals—in a short amount of time. You also get to step out of your comfort zone and experience things you never would in the United States.


On this particular trip, we spoke at several pastor conferences and ministered at several Sunday morning worship services. We held 4 medical clinics, preached daily on the radio, and visited a school. Although our ministry varied from day to day, one thing was a constant. Each ministry opportunity demanded an interpreter. We needed translation for everything we did.


The Americans all spoke English. The Ghanaians where we were (on the coast) mainly spoke “Ewe” But, at a couple events we had churches that had driven from the northern part of Ghana and they spoke “Twi”. You would probably be surprised to know that the official language of Ghana is indeed English. Everyone speaks their tribal tongue and the educated Ghanaians speak English as well.


If you have ever used a translator, you know that you are to speak slowly and clearly—in succinct thoughts—and then wait for the interpreter to re-state the thought that you just communicated. It is difficult to do if you are a fast thinker/talker like me, or if your interpreter isn’t fluent in your language. On this trip, there were several times when an American speaker would talk, then an interpreter would translate the message into Ewe, and then a second interpreter would translate that into Twi! Many times people in the audience who knew one of the languages—would clarify or correct the interpreter as he spoke.


As I considered how difficult it is to communicate like this, I started thinking about e-mails, text messages, Facebook and twitter—and how social media is another layer of speech that has be intimageserpreted to get our message across. Social media has become the primary way Americans communicate, and I do not think we fully consider how much of what we say is “lost in translation” by using these mediums.


I came home from Ghana wanting to look people in the eye, speak my language, and communicate in a deep and personal way. I didn’t want to “talk” through social media. I wanted to talk like we used to—eyeball to eyeball. I know I will surrender back to our culture though I hope it isn’t anytime soon. And I hope you understand what I am trying to say. After all, I am communicating with you right now through a blog found on social media! For more on this subject visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/the-voice-of-victory.html

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