EDMOND—December marked the completion of a semester assisting in the Foreign Language Translation department for German Herbert W. Armstrong College students David and Emmanuel Michels. The twins spent part of their work-study hours recording headquarters Bible studies and services for German-speaking members.
The pcg has about 20 native German-speaking members in Germany and Austria. Members in Vienna, Salzburg and northern and southern Germany receive recorded messages from headquarters. In the past, Austrian member Emanuel Maximoff has shouldered the work of translating the messages live. He continues to translate live once a month.
On the other Sabbaths, the members hear recordings from the Michelses. The twins hear the headquarters Bible study and sermon along with the rest of the congregation, then on Sundays go to a workspace at the former Key of David recording studio in the Mail Processing Center and translate for a four-hour shift.
“The possibility to lose the speaker or make mistakes is much less, since you know what he is going to talk about,” Emmanuel said.
The twins and their younger brother, Josué, have taken on the challenge of live translation before. When they lived in Germany, the Michelses drove five hours to the Netherlands to attend services with the nearest pcg congregation. There, David and Josué took turns translating live for their mother.
David said the idea of live translation was daunting to him at first. A translator can lose the speaker’s train of thought, fall behind the pace of the speaker, encounter faulty equipment, or have distracting background noise from his area come through to the listeners. But he soon found the challenge to be manageable and even looked forward to somehow helping the Work in the future with the new skill. Emmanuel felt the same way. As a freshman in 2013, he offered his services to assistant dean of students Eric Burns. But nothing came of it—at first.
“The time wasn’t ready for it,” Emmanuel said. “First, we had to get used to being in a different country and being at college to get a better foundation.”
But in August, the door opened for Emmanuel as a sophomore (and David as a freshman) to learn on the job lessons translating messages for their brethren an ocean away.
“I try to have perfection, and to speak from the diaphragm,” David said. “If the speaker raises his voice, I try to raise my voice. If he has any emphasis on any word, I try to emphasize the word. … I have to pray about it, because you can’t really have a good quality translation if you aren’t close to God.”
The brothers say that the work of recording a translated voiceover is taxing. David said the factors that affect his translations the most are sufficient sleep, prayer and focus.
“If you don’t have enough, you notice it in the translating,” he said. “It is mentally exhausting. If I translate a Bible study right after a sermon, I would need to rest or exercise to get my brain free again.”
Emmanuel said translating phrases like “recapturing true values” or “education with vision” word-for-word sounds strange, so he finds phrases that are equivalent but natural.
“Killing two birds with one stone—that’s a phrase that doesn’t exist in German,” Emmanuel said. “We say ‘killing two flies with one hit.’”
“If you can’t understand it, you just leave it out,” David said. “You don’t want to go back and put your own meaning in. You just translate.”
Accuracy and natural flow, David said, “is the goal—to have perfect meaning, speaking from the diaphragm, voice inflection and copying the emphasis [the speaker] has.”
David will continue in his duties from headquarters; Emmanuel transferred to the new campus in Edstone, England on January 8.