Many Voices, Many Languages

In recent years, REA’s online annual gatherings have emphasized its global membership and the global impact of our guild. Part of how we continue to lean into making global perspectives the place from which we operate, is to explore and implement language accessibility when we gather. Many of our members speak more than one language, yet we still (like many other peer organizations) operate primarily by writing, reading, and presenting in English. I’ve often wondered, what is lost when members work to translate their work and research outside of their primary language and context?

Our varied languages have embedded within them the different ways we understand and transmit religious education in and across our different contexts and cultures. Our different languages are culturally bound and reflect specific cultural values. For instance, when I am working in the Korean language, I am struck by how often we use communal words like woori to speak about our daily lives and activities. When I switch to working in English, the individual perspective is much more pronounced. Even the way we text in shorthand using acronyms like IMHO (In my humble opinion), showcases this perspective. Both linguistic approaches reveal much about the different values upheld among different people. What if we could bring the multiplicity of lingual diversity together to our gatherings beyond performative practice?

Working together towards our shared commitment to global participation means making room for multiple languages, the cultures embedded within them, and the people who claim those languages and cultures. Such efforts invite us to recognize and experience the nuance and cultural specificity each language brings. As we prepare for our 2023 annual conference, we are examining how best we might experiment with translation through subtitling and live translation in the most used languages across our guild. Part of the call for proposals asks members to let the conference committee know what languages they would prefer to utilize in their presenting and other interactions. Please engage with us by sharing what languages you would like to see and hear as part of our gathering, and we will see what new ways we might explore multilingual conferencing together.

Christine Hong, REA JEDI officer

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