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Justin Welby is in the same age group as my mother. This means that he is a baby boomer, that generation that came of age in the volatile sixties.
That’s not the only similarity between him and mum. They are both Anglicans. My mother is one of the millions who are part of the Anglican laity while Justin Welby is part of the thousands who are part of the clergy. As the Archbishop of Canterbury, he is the leader of the Anglican Church globally.
Although I have never met Justin Welby, I have interacted closely with some of his Bishops through the Lambeth Conference. The Archbishop of Canterbury convenes this Conference every ten years. It is an assembly of Bishops of the Anglican Communion and serves as the Anglican Church’s apex policy-making organ. Languages Africa, the Company that I lead, is an official Language Service Provider to the Lambeth Conference.
Although the Lambeth Conference takes place every ten years, there are regular Lambeth Conference Bishops’ Conversations that take place during these ten-year blocs. This year, the Bishops’ conversation was held on Tuesday 7th December. A team of two interpreters from Languages Africa provided Remote Simultaneous Swahili Christian Interpretation during the event. I was one of the two, with the other one being Patrice Leon, a linguist per excellence. He speaks and writes five languages fluently: French, English, Swahili, Lingala and Kibembe. Patrice Leon is in love with all these languages and has been speaking four of them - Lingala, Kibembe, Swahili and French - for all his life. It’s only English that he learnt proficiently when he arrived in Nairobi from Congo more than ten years ago.
It was all systems go as Patrice Leon and I joined the zoom conference and began our remote simultaneous Swahili Christian Interpretation. As is the Languages Africa custom, we had held a brief mock interpretation session in order to prepare ourselves as much as possible.
Simultaneous interpretation occurs in real-time. Remote Simultaneous Interpretation (RSI) takes place remotely, and not on location. This is highly advantageous because it renders physical travel redundant, which saves money, time and adverse effects on the environment. Languages Africa is a strong believer in sustainability, so we appreciate the environmental benefits of remote interpretation. However, we also know that some meetings demand a physical presence of interpreters. The important thing is to strike a balance.
Our remote Simultaneous Swahili Christian Interpretation usually takes place on diverse digital platforms. They include Zoom, Kudo, Voiceboxer, Interprefy and Lafrolingo.
Lafrolingo is Languages Africa’s own creation. Although Lafrolingo is still in the beta stage, we are thrilled about this opportunity of an African-produced remote interpretation platform that will ensure optimal interpretation of African languages.
Despite the presence of these state-of-the-art platforms, Remote Simultaneous Interpretation is only as good as the interpreters themselves. Not even the best technology can compensate for bad interpreting. That’s why we invest heavily in our RSI training. All our interpreters receive this training, which covers all the critical RSI components. They include accuracy, memorization, articulation and keen listening. We also train our remote interpreters on how to convey emotion in ways that are not overly dramatic. This is no easy task when it comes to Christian interpretation because speakers tend to get ‘carried away’ by the Spirit. Such intense conviction spills over into their words and body language that it becomes practically impossible to convey that intensity. Thankfully, such moments barely need interpretation. All the same, we have a cardinal rule to always package our interpretation in corresponding tones of the original words. You can’t interpret downcast words in an upbeat fashion and vice versa.
Remote Simultaneous Swahili Christian Interpretation of Christian events also requires a firm grasp of Christian tenets. A deep grasp of Scripture helps in enhancing contextual awareness, which boosts both the tone and content of our interpretation. That’s why it's preferable (albeit not mandatory) for remote Swahili interpreters of Christian events to be believers.
There is a famous Swahili Proverb that says, ‘kawia ufike.’ Roughly translated, it means ‘take your time so that you can arrive safely at your destination.’ In order for our remote Swahili interpreters to interpret accurately in the many Christian events that take place every other week, they must take time to prepare accordingly.
Languages Africa is ready to remotely deploy these Swahili interpreters to Church services all over East Africa and the world. This is particularly necessary because of the explosion of online services. Our Swahili interpreters are ready to ensure that Ministers of the Gospel are able to reach audiences wherever they may be watching or listening from.