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Moving towards a more multilingual UK Church: not just an abstract idea October 11, 2020

Posted by Pete B in multilingualism.

Language is important. But not many people in the UK Church talk, preach, or blog about it.

It’s over a year since I finished my MA dissertation. It’s under 20,000 words but still a bit long for a single blogpost so here’s the quick overview.

The purpose of this dissertation is to explore historical and current attitudes of UK society and the church towards languages other than English, with a view to further dialogue and the adoption by church and mission leaders of a more multilingual missional mindset. This involves looking at presuppositions, practices and possibilities. The dissertation is only the beginning of the journey. 

After years of promoting the need to support Bible Translation (in other parts of the world), the author has a deeper understanding of many of the complexities of language and socio-linguistics, and of rapid social changes and fresh possibilities brought through digital technology.

In Britain there are well over 300 languages spoken. Multilingualism means that ‘most’ people in our churches can use English in church even if it is not the language they use most at home. This UK based, kingdom focused research begins by looking broadly at language and multilingualism (Ch1), data on languages (Ch2), then discussing methodology (Ch3), before tracing history and attitudes to language and multilingualism in wider society and mainstream UK church (Ch4) and new research into attitudes and practices (Ch5) before summarising some ways forward (Ch 6).

I’ll post and possibly rewrite a few sections from my research, and point to materials from others as part of my ongoing exploration of #multilingualchurch.

In popular speech when we say “that’s a bit abstract”, we tend to mean it’s a bit disconnected either from from what else is going on, or from ‘real life’ in general. In academic writing, an abstract is a summary of an article, book or speech and can be very connected to important issues of life.

I’ve just read over 100 abstracts from a conference (that I didn’t attend) on The Past and Future of Evangelical Mission . You can still download the abstract booklet but be warned, there’s a lot to read even in just the summaries. Several papers touched on aspects of our changing world and changing church. They would have been great to have interacted in as part of my MA, but as I said amongst the few words above, “The dissertation is only the beginning of the journey. “


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