“Hearing the gospel in their own tongue”
A January 2024 report on advances in AI and what they mean for the Church
New Unicorn-startup-on-the-block Elevens Labs has rolled out a more refined dubbing/translation service. Now one can simply upload any video under 45 minutes long and hear it in one of 27 different languages in the voice of the speaker. (Somebody should “back translate” Elder Uchtdorf speaking in German back into English to see how close it gets). Word on the street is that it is pretty accurate.
Implications for the Church:
- A lot of the more esoteric debates about things in the Church like Egyptian papyrology, how Elder so-and-so’s remark might be interpreted by this or that group, and ancient Mesoamerican population growth rates were the purview of the sociocultural elite in the Church in English-speaking countries. Google Translate solved some of this, but increasingly even more popular content such as podcasts or YouTube channels from Church and Church-adjacent (or anti-Church) influencers is going to be widely available to the international Church. I suspect Church influencer culture going international will be a net bad thing, but I might be wrong.
- Obviously, this could make General Conference translations much, much more efficient, although if it’s still not 100% equivalent I suspect the Church will continue with traditional translation (and even if it is institutional inertia and internal incentives will probably keep the translation department there for the time being). Still, there are a lot of non-General Conference materials such as BYU Speeches and youth fireside-type meetings that might not meet the threshold for full professional translation, but can get maybe 97% there with this new technology, and now the whole Church potentially has access to everything on the Church’s YouTube channel, for example.
- Translating it in the voice of the speaker might be worth whatever slippage there is between the dubbed version and the professionally translated version. Language and speech is intimate, and having a translator’s voice between the audience and the speaker adds another layer of distance between the messenger and the audience. It would be great for Croatian speakers to hear Sister or Elder so-and-so in their actual voice.