Anchorage, AK

‘Straight to the Heart’: Unprecedented Translation Work Bringing Words to Life for Millions

Grant Perry

(Disclaimer: I do not receive compensation for the links in this article.)

Translation efforts of Jehovah’s Witnesses reach Alaskan residents in the language of their hearts.

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Sanele and Matauaina Tauasosi enjoy an encouraging spiritual program translated into Samoan from their Anchorage home.Courtesy of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Public Information

For Sanele Tauasosi, a resident of Anchorage, Alaska originally from American Samoa, only the Samoan language goes straight to his heart. “I read the Bible in Samoan,” and he added, “It’s very touching to my heart.”

That’s why a program on joy was offered in more than 500 languages on a website that boasts free content in more than 1,050 languages — jw.org — and why the Christian group behind that site, Jehovah’s Witnesses, puts so much effort into translation for even smaller language groups.

“We understand that a region’s official language may not be the language of a person’s heart,” said Robert Hendriks, the U.S. spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In the United States alone, some 67 million residents speak a language other than English at home.

According to UNESCO, education based on the language one speaks at home results in better quality learning, fosters respect and helps preserve cultural and traditional heritage. “The inclusion of languages in the digital world and the creation of inclusive learning content is vital,” according to its website.

That’s true for all ages and for all types of education.

“Translating spiritually uplifting material into over 1,000 languages takes a considerable amount of time and resources,” said Hendriks, “but we know that reaching a person’s heart with the Bible’s comforting message can only be accomplished if they fully understand it.”

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Anchorage residents, Stanley and Michelle Imperial, use a Bible-based publication in Tagalog to benefit their family life.Courtesy of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Public Information

For Stanley and Michelle Imperial, Anchorage, Alaska residents originally from the Philippines, learning English has been challenging. Stanley Imperial said, “We actually didn’t expect that the English that we learned in school would be totally different in the United States.”

Receiving the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in the Tagalog language has had a positive impact on their lives. Michelle Imperial states, “It really benefits me because the message and the words that are used are very understandable for me.”

Stanley Imperial sees the benefit in his family life as well. “The Tagalog version of the Bible helped me understand what my role in the family is,” he added, “How you actually connect with your family.”

The Imperials appreciate the Bible translation efforts of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Michelle Imperial says, “Since the translation is very simple, and it’s in everyday Tagalog, I am comfortable reading it and teaching it to others.”

For the Tauasosi family, finding resources in Samoan improved their lives as well. “I changed a lot,” Sanele Tauasosi said, “I would fight with the youth of our village. In school if I needed money, I would fight with the other kids.”

Being able to understand the Bible in his mother tongue changed Sanele Tauasosi’s personality for the better. Now he and his wife Matauaina Tauasosi focus on doing God’s will and helping others learn about the Bible.

Matauaina Tauasosi said, “It's benefited me if I study in my own language, so I can understand the deep meaning of the subject or the article we discuss in my own language, the language of my heart, because if not, I will never benefit out of it.”

Matauaina Tauasosi appreciates that anywhere a Samoan speaking person lives, they have access to content in their language on jw.org.

The Imperials and Tauasosis have dedicated their lives to God and have been baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now, they share the Bible’s message with others in their respective languages.

Literature and content is available on jw.org in many languages, including Korean, Ilocano, Samoan, Tagalog, and many other languages spoken by those living in Alaskan communities.

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I have lived nearly my whole life in Alaska, mostly in Anchorage. I am interested in local, national, and global news, local food and events, games, and music.

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