[From Essay August 2020]

A few months back the opportunity came up to help to translate and diffuse our daily reading from ‘The Real Connection’ via WhatsApp into French. My mother tongue is English and I live in Nice in the south of France. I am seven and a half months sober, although I’ve known SA for between 25 and 30 years. (Yes no error here, I really really am that stubborn.)

I jumped at the chance to help with mixed motives: doing good service, helping my own recovery, being seen as mister Big Stuff, boosting my ego, etc. All went perfectly well until it was time to do the first translation. I then realised I had undertaken a task well above my capacities. My French is nowhere near good enough to translate a spiritual reading.

Again my ego had dumped me in it. What to do? I think I sent out one or two but realised quickly that I needed help. Is a phrase well constructed in French? Does the French translation carry the actual meaning of the original text? Do the English expressions carry the same meaning in French? I had no idea.

God sent me other recovering members to help with the translation, native French speakers. We developed a way of translating that works for us. We work on a double page. Original on the left, French translation on the right. The first draft comes from an online translation service. We meet on zoom. We pray together. We ask God to keep the meaning of the original text. Another English speaker or I read the text in English. We then begin to read the text in French. We discuss the title. Sometimes we have very little to translate. Language can be very unforgiving, one wrong word can change the entire meaning of a sentence. The team is never less than two people. Always a native English speaker and a native French speaker. The average time for each translation is 30-40 minutes. We have become more and more efficient. We no longer get stuck on an individual word but stay focused on the message going out.

Today I am very happy to be a link in the chain that does the translation. When the translation is finished, I say nothing and listen to the native French speakers check the text for errors. My ego is now deflated and I am more comfortable with God, myself and others. Thanks to the nature of the WhatsApp group we get to read people’s gratitude for the translation immediately which encourages us.

Is it a lot of work? Sometimes … Difficult when I have done a day’s work but always worth it. We have completed between 2 and 3 months of translation. Another 9 months to go to complete a year’s readings. God is helping us.

For the technical among us: the file is created in a graphic programme and is saved with the English original text permanently attached in the file. It is just the page definition that hides the English when opened in the smartphone reader. The page size is created especially for the smartphone. White as a page background colour is never used because on an electronic screen is harsh on the eyes. The background colour changes each month. Trying to make the layout easy to read and pleasant to look at is a part of our service too.

Please pray for our translation and our sobriety too. Much love to you all, God bless.

Stephen P, France