LOUISVILLE (PNS) — Imagine attending the 224th General Assembly in Baltimore and seeing the speaker’s slides appear on separate screens simultaneously in English, Spanish and Korean.
This idea is more than a hope; it’s a plan that may be ready to unveil by June 2020 or, if not, definitely by 2022, said Jason Raff, manager of Global Language Resources (GLR) for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Administrative Services Group (ASG).
Raff, whose background is in legal translation and classical music, came onboard in this newly created manager’s role last October. In just a few months, he has perceived that effective language access is key to reconciling division and uniting the PC(USA) as a multilingual global denomination.
“I think it’s important to set a vision that goes beyond the nuts and bolts administrative aspect of global language access,” Raff told the A Corp board on Thursday. He said when God and the angels came down to confuse human languages in Genesis 11, they didn’t take away people’s ability to communicate and learn from one another.
“I like to see this as somewhat of a benevolent challenge that in our effort to understand one another’s language, we understand one another better,” Raff said. “I also see a connection with the church’s Matthew 25 efforts, specifically dismantling structural racism.”
He said because language and culture and race are intertwined, it’s almost impossible to discuss either of these without discussing aspects of culture and race.
“So when we do language access, the goal and hope and vision is that we are weakening racist structures by allowing people from different cultures, different races, different backgrounds to communicate freely with one another and hopefully grow together in God.” As we all grow in together in God, he said, we will “better come to know God through equitable exchange of faith and worship.”
Raff said one of GLR’s core values is the idea of “total language inclusion,” which is a goal to shoot for although it is somewhat of an impossibility. “We should aim high, right?” he said, giving an example that it is “no good” if a General Assembly overture published in English comes out in Spanish and Korean after GA. “That’s not equitable access to information.”
In business, a buzzword “simship” is used in new product development, particularly related to things like software, video games and apps. Simship is the idea that the products are to be shipped simultaneously but not until they are available in all relevant languages. “This is something we want to encourage, and we will do everything we can to make sure this can happen,” Raff said.
Currently GLR is focused on adequately resourcing GLR to process virtually all translation orders from the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency in the “first three” languages of English, Spanish and Korean. GLR will be hiring two linguists, one each in Spanish and Korean. Each pair of translators will have a senior person who will ensure translations meet standards, according to the International Standards Organization (ISO) and the Translation Automation User Society (TAUS). The senior translator may also brief clients and do some light project management work, such as assigning different linguists to different portions of the project and providing a costing report to the client. The senior person will also report to the GLR manager if there are any identified quality issues with the work, either by a staffer or contract translator. In addition to adding two staff linguists, GLR will expand its roster of contract linguists to accommodate other languages and other ministry areas such as the Board of Pensions, Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program and the Presbyterian Foundation.
“Global Language Resources strives to be your one-stop shop for language access needs,” Raff said. He said GLR will encourage agency areas to consider language access as a crucial part of their project planning, not as an afterthought.
Priority is first on gearing up for General Assembly, but Raff said his hope is that by the time GA is over GLR will be able to handle work from any of the agencies. “I really don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver,” he said, “but some of the things that will ‘wow’ you will come after other building blocks are in place.”
GLR’s scope will include translation as its largest area, as well as interpreting at denominational events, such as General Assembly, Big Tent, the Mid Council National Gathering and the Moderators’ Conference.
“We are about to launch a project to align the Book of Order in English, Spanish and Korean,” Raff said. He explained that through a translation memory database, all three languages will be stored in the database and when overtures come to GLR, they will prepopulate in the section of the Book of Order that has already been translated and validated. “So, you are not rewriting; you are not even copying and pasting. Not only that, but it will show you exactly what you need to change.”
Raff believes additional linguists, computer-assisted tools and workflow process improvements like these will help GLR be able to effectively manage expanded translation services while maintaining high quality. The technology tools are not “Google Translate,” Raff emphasized. “We’re talking about a class of tools that help translators do their work better.” The technology improvement alone will help GLR decrease costs, increase productivity, ensure process compliance, streamline translation orders and delivery, automate repetitive processes, perform quality assurance, provide metrics and ensure consistency over time, he said.
“One place we are really excited to try this out is integration with PC-Biz,” Raff said. “When an item is posted to PC-Biz, it will automatically be routed to GLR for translation, and when the translation is returned it will automatically post to PC-Biz.”
With regard to quality assurance, a customer feedback loop will allow customers to tell GLR when the words they are using are not the words they want. “As long as they do not fundamentally alter the meaning, we can integrate any terminology preference a client gives us; and we can associate those preferences with that client so that every subsequent translation we do for them will be improved over the previous one,” Raff said.
by Tammy Warren, Presbyterian News Service