His name endures forever. His name continues as long as the sun. Men shall be blessed by him. All nations will call him blessed. (Psalms 72:17 WEB)
William Shakespeare was a brilliant wordsmith. If we accept all his credited writings as demonstration of his abilities, then his command of the English language was beyond compare. Fortunately for William he was working in his native tongue writing to reach people in his native land.
In radio ministry we often take programs from one language, translate them to another language and send them thousands of miles through the air. God works miracles in people’s lives through these programs. Souls are saved. Believers are encouraged, believers edified and churches receive resources for ministry. Pastors are trained as programs come into their home with personal relevant instructions.
I never translate the programs myself. I only hear about the difficulties some of our program producers have while tuning the sermons to fit a culture different from the original speaker. Program lengths must be modified to provide culturally sensitive and culturally relevant examples, understood by the listener, or explanations to further illuminate a biblical point. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.
Many times our listeners search for English programs. In their desire to know God better, curiosity about the Gospel, or enjoyment of the music, they tune in and listen to English as their second, or third, or fourth language. Personally, I have difficulty understanding my native tongue much less a second, third or fourth language. As careful as the producers are there is always room for misinterpretation, or, just hearing it wrong.
Some of my favorite snippets of humor come from non-English listeners writing in English. Although we communicate with one another it’s evident English is not their native tongue. We have received letters addressed to programs such as “Throw the Bible” (Through the Bible), “Dropping Your God” (Dropping your Guard), and the “Wrestling Hour” (Wesleyan Hour). One gentleman sent us a question. He wanted to know “how to go through Chuck’s window to get inside for living” (Insight for Living by Chuck Swindoll). Another listener wrote to say he was “rolling around with the radio one day when he found our program.” Just picture him. . . on the floor, radio in hand, rolling back and forth while searching for a program.
Reading God’s word is sometimes like these misinterpretations of program names. Our minds and eyes read passages but our conscious translates it to something totally different from the written word. It takes careful study, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and sometimes the clear direction of a brother in Christ to straighten out our understanding. As I read or hear a listener’s response I chuckle over the minor but entertaining language difficulties, then, I consider what I read in my morning devotions to see if I clearly heard the Word of God.