Weymann and I are approaching our last 3 days in Lome, Togo. Our time has been insightful, hopefully for our students, but certainly for us. As Weymann and I casually reflect on the challenges of teaching through translation, from English to French in Togo, we wondered if such a process could be strengthened in order to result in a more effective impartation of the theology being taught; a more strategic effort to cultivating a better complement between teaching and translation.
The students at Ecole Superieure Baptiste De Theologie De L'Afrique De L'ouest (ESBTAO) don't seem to lack a hunger for knowing the Word of God. It is encouraging when a student has the attitude like Jacob, "I won't let you go until you bless me.” They seem so demanding for understanding. The challenge before us has more to do with accurate communication between French speaking students and English speaking teachers.
Mawena Akakpo asked my translator and me to go very slow, not because he was not getting the gist of what was being taught, but because he wanted to savor every thought for a complete understanding. Padibalaki Koffee Awi, a student with a good working knowledge of English, often engages with my translator to discuss the right word in French that better communicates the theological thought being taught.
There also appears to be a certain student behavior that operates on understood communication. The students remain quiet and silent until they get the theology being taught, and see how that theology relates to their life as Africans at home and in the streets. Once this understanding happens, the students erupt in discussion, input, questions, and good critical dialogue like the chatter of a lively rainforest; understood communication is so important to the teaching process.
In the casual musings of Weymann and myself, we considered how translation is often a casual facility. We were not necessarily thinking of Togo, but that of a broader global world where oral translation is necessary.
From a layman's understanding of the art of communication from one language to another, in our case, from English to French, we wondered if it would be helpful to give more careful thought and strategy to the relationship between translator and teacher. It would be good to have missionaries and teachers who are skilled in the disciplines of such communication, help us teachers think through a more skillful way of communication from one language to another for we are merely teachers feeling the gaps in effective communication.
It seems that the translator is at least as significant as the teacher for he or she is the final communicator of theology. That communication demands careful precision of thought and expression. As the use of translation and translators continues as a necessary means of communication, it would seem helpful to have one on the field who could give focused attention to such communication.
Well, just some passing thoughts that will stimulate better thoughts among skilled practitioners in the disciplines of language communication.