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Language(s) and the Church May 22, 2019

Posted by P, J, or J in multilingualism, Statistics.
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I’m excited to be researching attitudes to languages within the UK Church …and (where appropriate) how to change them.

In 2014 the Church of England gathered a lot of statistics about the diversity of it’s congregations and published a report called “Everyone Counts“.
So far as I look at websites and reports from many different church denominations and agencies it seems that although there is a lot of data gathered, language isn’t something that gets talked about much.

This is despite the fact that over 300 languages are spoken by people living in the UK. This is despite the fact that 17% of children in schools in England come from a home where English is not the first language.

For the general population the spread of languages other than English looks something like this…

…the number of languages and the number of people speaking them vary considerably from place to place.

According to data from an interactive parish map, provided by the Research and Statistics unit of the Church of England, the town I was born in is still 98.3% white and 73.7% defined themselves as Christian in the 2011 census. Another Church of England website Presence and Engagement helps to identify and serve parishes through identifying the proportion of other religions (just enter your postcode).

Neither of these sites currently tells me about languages spoken (P&E has a page on resources in other languages) . Other census data suggests 98% of people said their main language was English and an email revealed at least 16 different languages represented in the town’s schools.

2011 Census reports from the UK Office for National Statistics

In multicultural society, ethnicity, country of birth, and language are very different things which is why I’d like to have been surprised that so few churches and organisations seem to have paid much attention to the languages people speak.

In part, that may be due to the many other things rightly clamouring for attention but perhaps also that if people speak English to a high level of proficiency then language is not perceived to be a barrier. I’m hoping my research and discussions will encourage people to see that language is more than an obstacle.

After many travels around the world I’m now living just half an hour away from where I grew up, in a town which is much more diverse in terms of languages spoken at home (over 80). So far I’ve identified ten spoken by people in the churches, but I’m looking forward to hearing out about more.

Coming soon…
Five ways to use other languages (a bit) in your church.

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The Worlds Favourite Worship Songs? January 31, 2019

Posted by P, J, or J in multilingualism, worship.
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This is no longer a new CD, so many of the songs might already be among your favourites, but are they really the World’s favourites?

“Possibly the best worship collection ever made featuring over 50 of the finest modern worship songs sung the world over.

With songs that cross the nations and span the generations The World’s Favourite Worship Songs showcases what the world’s churches are singing today.

Really?

I like lots of the songs on here (as do many people around the world) but watching the video you’d think the church only sang in English.

I am pleased to see that the team at weareworship.com , recognises that and are inviting subscribers to submit translations of many popular songs. (eg there are 29 translations of “Here I am to Worship” and scroll to the bottom of the list and it gives you a link to provide a translation if there isn’t one in your language).

Sadly they don’t (yet) have the built in ability to search by language, but it is possible to use Google to do that for you. eg


polski site:https://www.weareworship.com

My hope however is that in addition to the globalisation of worship where everyone sings to the same tunes we will have truely global worship where we get to hear more songs from other cultures and musical styles both traditional and modern. WeAreWorship are contributing to that too with a platform called SongShare and there is another emerging community at proskuneo.org.

Meanwhile if you look for it there is a lot of worship happening in different languages, some of which is shared on YouTube. Here’s 70,000 people singing in Arabic

348,000 views on YouTube

And another Arabic Christian song that seems quite popular

almost 5,000,000 views so far

How many languages are actually being used to worship God? Heaven knows.

How many languages will sung in heaven?

I know that there are over 3350 languages into which some part of the Bible has been translated and would hope (but don’t know) that songs are being sung to God in each of these and perhaps even more.

I also know that there are well over 300 languages spoken by people living in my home country of the UK but suspect that far fewer are used in our churches. So I hope you’ve enjoyed some of the singing. Here’s some worship leaders and theologians talking in 2015 about their hopes for the future of worship in the UK.

seen only 1137 times in the last 4 years, but worth letting people know about

…and a plug for a Multicultural Worship day on Feb 23 at All Nations

Bible-less languages and Bible-less people July 9, 2018

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, multilingualism, Statistics.
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People often get confused as to why there is a difference between the number of languages that don’t have any scripture and the number of languages in which Wycliffe and others report that scripture translation needs to begin.

scriptureandneeds2017

I’m wondering if we sometimes need to be more careful to distinguish between “Bible-less languages” and “Bible-less people”.

The simplest public messages on the need for Bible translation continue to imply that people cannot understand or respond to scripture unless it is in their language but research over the last 40 years has taught us that there are in fact many barriers to engagement. Which perhaps explains why there are so many millions of people who own or could easily access a Bible in their main (or only) language but never read it.

Language can obviously be a significant barrier (this is why I’ve spent the last 22 years of life working with Wycliffe and others involved in Bible translation). Promotional material has often implied that people only speak one language really well. This is sometimes nuanced with the idea that people only have a single “heart language” through which God can clearly connect  to them.

Many people speak more than one language equally well. Some are spoken to in multiple languages from birth, others acquire them one after another as they move into education or as they move from one place to another. It can still be true that for people who speak several languages well, one or two touch them more deeply. Language isn’t just about intellectual understanding but also about emotional connection, identity, and even trust.

2017BTstats-enThere are 3,312 languages with some scripture and 1,636 languages where translation is estimated as ‘needing to begin’. (figures from Wycliffe’s last official global statistics in Oct 2017)

Those ‘translation needs’ might rise or fall depending not just on linguistic analysis but upon the felt needs of the speakers.

As our understanding of the issues of multilingualism continues to grow it may be that some of the need is for initial connection with the Bible rather than ensuring that what ‘we’ see as the most important bits around salvation and Christian living are translated first.

One old story that comes to mind is the impact of genealogies for some cultures. Something the translators saw as secondary to the ‘important bits’ but which gave the local people the connection they needed –  a list of ancestors pointed to Jesus being a real person, the length of the list pointed to him being a very important person. Suddenly mere stories became true! In Joanne Shetlers’ book, “And The Word Came with Power“, it’s interesting to note that while Bible translation had a major impact, this discovery came from looking at a Bible in a majority language.

Meanwhile, I once met a young British man who had tried reading the Bible before but didn’t understand it. I showed him a modern translation opened “at random” to include the bit about God loving the world and giving his son so that those who believed could have eternal life – all wrapped up in John 3:16. The key to him engaging was John 1:37, “They answered, “Where do you live, Rabbi?” (This word means “Teacher.”)”
“Hey this is great!”, my new friend said, “It tells you what it means.”

Although there are still many people who are unreached and unevangelised, there are also billions of people do have easy access to the “important” bits in languages of head and heart but they have yet to make it past their own obstacles and make the connections.


For anyone wanting to read more deeply about multilingualism I’ve just downloaded a draft copy of “Language and Identity in a Multilingual, Migrating World“. I’ve got lots more of it to read but recommend John Watters’ section on “The Language of the Heart”. 

Coming soon… Multilingual Worship June 25, 2017

Posted by P, J, or J in multilingualism, worship.
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There are a number of powerful multilingual worship videos where people unite in singing the same song in many different languages. It’s good practice for when you get to heaven.

If you’ve never heard this, listen, and be moved.

– Revelation song in multiple languages.

 

This can be repeated in many large events and even in smaller congregations.

Here’s the same song sung by teens in 14 languages

Katelin Hanson asks whether attempting multilingual worship is worth it. She concludes it is. Would you feel the same if it was you in a new church in a new land? http://churchleaders.com/outreach-missions/outreach-missions-blogs/161669-katelin_hansen_multilingual_worship_is_it_worth_it.html

Worship is not only multilingual, it is multicultural – even when it’s in English!

Think of music that you associate with the Lords Prayer. I introduced a few people to Cliff Richard’s version “the Millennium Prayer” recently and told others about a somewhat slower version sung by Beach Boys (1964).

Personally I prefer this one sung in English by Shreya Kant (live in Warangal, Andhra Pradesh. This song is from the album Thy Kingdom Come where it also available in Urdu and Punjabi.)

I’ll be writing more on this concept later including some tips on how to be more multilingual in your ministry (in simple manageable steps), and seeing what sites and apps exist to help you find good song and strategies.

Stay tuned!

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