MARCH 1, 2021
More than 60 percent of our full-time translation teams work, not at branch offices, but at remote translation offices (RTO). Why is this arrangement beneficial? What equipment do translators need in order to work effectively at an RTO? And how does the location of a translation team affect the quality of their translation?
An RTO allows translators to live where many people speak their language. Karin, a Low German translator, explains: “Since we moved to the RTO in Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua, Mexico, we are always speaking Low German—with our fellow translators and in the ministry, as well as when we shop. We are immersed in our language. We hear idiomatic expressions that we have not heard for a long time, and we keep up with the vocabulary that people are using.”
James, who works with the Frafra translation team in Ghana, admits that he sometimes misses associating with the Bethel family at the branch. But he adds: “I love working at the RTO. Preaching in the local language and seeing how people react to the good news touches my heart.”
How do our brothers decide where to set up an RTO? “One challenge we face is that some locations do not have reliable electricity or water or the Internet access needed to receive the text files to be translated,” says Joseph, a member of the Worldwide Design/Construction Department in Warwick, New York, U.S.A. “So when setting up an RTO, we may give consideration to more than one location where the language is spoken.”
Generally speaking, the quickest and most inexpensive option is to set up an RTO at an available Assembly Hall, Kingdom Hall, or missionary home, to which the translators can commute. If no existing facility is available, the brothers may receive approval to purchase apartments and office space in which the translators can live and work. If the needs of the translation team change, these facilities can easily be sold and the funds can be used where they are needed most.
Equipped to Continue the Work
During the 2020 service year, we spent 13 million dollars (U.S.) to keep RTOs in operation. The teams in our RTOs need computers, specialized software, audio-recording equipment, Internet access, and basic utilities. A typical computer setup, for example, may cost about $750 (U.S.) per user. Computers are equipped with commercial software and with the Watchtower Translation System, a program that helps translators organize their work and easily access reference material.
Translators also receive audio-recording kits that allow them to record at the office. These kits proved invaluable when the COVID-19 pandemic began, because many translators were able to take the kits home with them and continue recording their translation of written material and videos.
Local volunteers often help by reviewing translated publications, as well as maintaining RTO facilities. “Many publishers and regular pioneers have the opportunity to use their talents here,” says Cirstin, who serves at the Afrikaans RTO in Cape Town, South Africa.
Such volunteers enjoy the privilege. One sister who helps out at an RTO says that working there is like “a breath of fresh air.” Some local brothers and sisters also lend their voices for audio recordings. Juana, a Totonac translator in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, says: “Now that we are closer to the towns that speak our language, it is easier for more brothers and sisters to help record our audio and video publications.”
But have RTOs helped improve the quality of translation? Many of our millions of readers say yes. Cédric, who works with the Kongo team in the Democratic Republic of Congo, relates: “Some brothers and sisters used to call our way of translating Kongo ‘the Kongo of Watch Tower publications,’ because it did not reflect the way Kongo is commonly used. But now, they say that our publications are translated into modern Kongo, the way people express themselves every day.”
Andile, who works with the Xhosa team, has heard a similar response in South Africa. “Many tell us they have noticed a change in the translation,” he says. “Even kids who used to read The Watchtower in English now read it in Xhosa. They especially love the naturalness of the revised New World Translation.”
All the expenses associated with setting up, maintaining, and staffing RTOs are cared for by voluntary donations to the worldwide work, including those made at donate.jw.org.