This month, JW.ORG reached an impressive translation milestone, with downloadable content now available in 1,000 languages, including Sinhala, Tamil and Sri Lankan sign languages. The efforts of Jehovah’s Witnesses to translate into these languages are appreciated by many in Sri Lanka’s communities.
This impressive translation feat was accomplished on a global scale through the efforts of thousands of volunteers. Wherever possible, translators work on location, where there is a high concentration of native speakers. Being close to their audience enables translators to field-test publications, resulting in material that is accurate, natural, and clearly understood by those who use the language every day.
A Spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses Congregation in Sri Lanka, Mr. Sudath Fernando noted that this was truly a significant feat especially considering that all translations are done by volunteers who happen to be members of the congregation worldwide. “We are thrilled by this landmark because with this JW.Org becomes the most translated website in the world surpassing forums like Wikipedia and Facebook which are only available in around 280 & 43 languages respectively,” he said.
He added: “In Sri Lanka alone we carry out our communication in 5 languages: Sinhalese, Tamil, English, Chinese & sign language – this is a testament to the fact that we are a highly-inclusive, accepting, accommodating community”.
Based in Wattala, the Sinhala translation team translates videos, audio and written publications that help all people cope with life’s challenges, such as teen depression. The material has been well received locally.
Dr. Gerhard Budin, professor at the Center for Translation Studies at the University of Vienna, comments: “Analysing the translation work [of Jehovah’s Witnesses], it becomes clear that the basic principles of translation studies, as well as best practices in practical translation work are fully respected.”
Most Translated Website on Earth
In addition to offering a wealth of downloadable material in 1,000 languages, jw.org’s home page and other pages can be navigated in an unprecedented 821 languages, making it the most widely translated website in the world. John Yunker, author of The Web Globalization Report Card, says: “Even Facebook, with support for more than 100 languages, has a long way to go. And while the jw.org effort is volunteer-driven, it even outpaces the world’s most popular crowdsourced website—Wikipedia, with support for more than 280 languages.”
The translation work of Jehovah’s Witnesses has a long history, dating back to the late 1800s. Geoffrey Jackson, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Warwick, New York, states: “It took us a little over 100 years to reach 508 languages in January 2013. But it’s remarkable that in just under seven years we have nearly doubled our translation production—from 508 languages to 1,000.”
John Yunker states: “The internet connects computers but languages connect people. […] The jw.org website shows great respect for those who speak languages that may not be supported by the Fortune 500.” Nicholas Ahladis, the assistant overseer of Translation Services at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, explains why the Witnesses go to such efforts to translate into different languages: “We want to help people. Our goal is to translate the Bible’s message so that it is accurate, clear, and easy for readers to benefit from.”