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The Sacred Preservation of Language

sacred preservation of languages

Last updated on November 30th, 2017 at 01:38 pm

Taking a look at the role that churches play in keeping foreign languages alive in America

It is no news that this country is made of immigrants. In the City of Rochester alone, we have a wide range of immigrants; the Nepalese and Burmese of recent years, as well as the Latinos and Italians of previous generations, among others.

In observing these groups, there is one thing that is easily noticeable; each ethnic group has an organized community typically centered on a place of worship. One of the main reasons for this is that within these churches, the full service is conducted in the mother tongue, creating a microcosm in which the children born in these churches have an opportunity to learn the language of their heritage.

 While living in Detroit, Michigan I witnessed my neighbor’s children attending a Greek school in order to have an introduction to the Greek Language, Culture and Orthodox religion. That in Detroit is possible due to the extended Greek community.

Greeks account for a small percentage of the total immigration pool in the U.S. But they have created strong communities to maintain their Language, religion and traditions.

Nowadays Greeks and their descendants live in all fifty states, with large numbers living in cities like Chicago, New York City and Detroit and also within a large community in the City of Toronto in Canada. Many Greeks are integrated into the American culture but remain connected to Greek religion, tradition and culture through their church

It’s not only churches that support language preservation for people that migrate to the USA and their children, other organizations take over the task of teaching language, and maintaining fresh and present culture and traditions.  Such organizations include Jewish centers, Spanish Clubs and organizations around the country and the world. In those clubs and communities aspects of culture such as  food, music and events are celebrated as a way to maintain ethnic communities.

But what does this mean to other sectors in the community? It means that in order to reach certain populations, there is a channel by reaching out to these religious communities and ethnic communities.


What does this mean to me? I’m a Business not a Non-Profit

A large portion of not-for-profits have a community outreach/partnership component that is either the primary or secondary focus of their operations. For purposes of establishing relationships with customers and new consumers, many for-profit entities like Grocery stores or Media Outlets seek to contribute time or resources to the surrounding community.

For example, local grocery stores often donate excess baked goods to churches and organizations. Not only does this feed people, but it: 1) creates a good rapport with the community, 2) it exposes the company to potential customers within the community and 3) exposes potential customers to new products, potentially creating a shift in interest. I myself have tasted a wide variety of church-donated products that are out of my regular diet that I am open to purchasing after trying them.


But What if I’m a Non-Profit, How do Churches help me ?

Imagine you are an Outreach Director for a local hospital and you are charged with administering a $1,000,000 federal grant to do outreach programs concerning diabetes prevention. The catch of this grant is that it is targeted toward Latinos in your city, due to the high rate of diabetes within that community. You lived most of your childhood in the inner city and you know that many non-for-profit organizations have that area saturated under the assumption most Latinos lived there. You wonder if communication is the issue or if the message isn’t reaching enough people. How about both?

What can be done to reach more Latinos that do not live in the same zip code? According to the Pew Research Center, when surveying Hispanic  Adults in the United States,  55% responded to be Catholic, 22% responded to being Protestant, and only 18% reported to being unaffiliated to any religion. In short, when attempting to reach out to the Hispanic community, a very effective method is to reach out to houses of worship with a large Latino following.

This does not come without its own challenges, as most of these churches tend to be primarily Spanish language speaking. Addressing these churches requires effective and culturally sensitive communication. For example, while in the Northeast, most Latinos may be Puerto Rican, there is a chance you may be speaking to a Latino church that is predominantly Colombian, Dominican, Mexican or Central American. In that case knowing the audience aids you in adapting and localizing the message to offer services and products in a sensitive way according to the culture and language of preference of that community.  This is achieved most effectively through a translation agency that provides professional Spanish translation services with the help of skilled, native Spanish speaking translators who have lived the culture of your target audience. 

Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie was born in Venezuela and has a BS in computer engineering. As President of JR Language, she spends time researching new technology and productivity tools for the Company. She holds a certificate of Localization and Project Management- Localization. Through her many years of experience working in multilingual corporate environments, she understands firsthand the value of bridging language barriers in creating smooth communication that allows for productive and happy work environments. She is fluent in Spanish and English, and is a frequent contributor to both our English and Spanish blogs. 20 Years of experience in marketing Jackie loves nature and to be outdoors.