I rarely get excited when I hear about large scale evangelistic events in Thailand (or anywhere else, for that matter). I don't fault the motivation of anyone involved but for all the time and money put into these colossal under-takings, especially at a ...

Gleanings from the Field - 5 new articles




The Real Value of Large Scale Evangelistic Events

I rarely get excited when I hear about large scale evangelistic events in Thailand (or anywhere else, for that matter).

I don’t fault the motivation of anyone involved but for all the time and money put into these colossal under-takings, especially at a national level in a big arena, the results seem meager.  What results am I talking about?  The goal, directly or indirectly, of these events is to get a lot of people to become Christians through praying a prayer or going forward in response to an altar call.  Even when events have impressive results, such as the 2009 “My Hope Thailand” campaign which produced 12,000 decisions, most of these decisions rarely translate into committed Christian disciples.   

But regardless of what I or others say, it is unlikely that altar call evangelism will be given up anytime soon.  It just looks too good on the surface to abandon entirely. Even if most new converts fall away, many advocates for such events are fully persuaded by the justification that “even if one person comes to Christ, it was all worth it.”  Is it? For the time and money expended, maybe different activities would be even more worth it?  Just a thought. 

With that preamble out of the way, I want to get to the main point of this post. Even if large scale evangelistic events have dubious value in terms of directly producing new Christian disciples, they do have two other distinct benefits that I believe gives them real value and justifies their continuation. 

1. Encouraging Local Outreach 

One of the things that the BGEA does right in coordinating these big events is working with local churches in encouraging people to think pro-actively about sharing Christ with their neighbors.  For Christians anywhere, it is easy to become distracted by the mundane affairs of life and the constant buzz of social media.  We too easily become self-focused. Large scale evangelistic efforts, done well, remind Christians to pray for their friends and neighbors who don’t know Christ.  When church leaders encourage their members to think of a few people to pray for and invite to the event, that can get people going, reminding them to love their neighbors better and think of ways to talk with them about Christ.  All of us need a little push once in a while.  Most people become Christians through relationships with Christians on the local level, not large scale events.  But the big events have a role in encouraging those low-key local initiatives. 

2. Reminding Christians They Are Not Alone 

In a nation like Thailand, most churches are very small and Christians can often feel isolated.  For many, the only Christians they know in their whole town are the 10-20 people they see on Sunday morning.  It is easy to adopt a fortress mentality and focus on just hanging on to your faith in the midst of a world where seemingly EVERYBODY else is some other religion.  "Could I have been mistaken in putting my faith in Christ?  Almost nobody else I know is a Christian.”   

In a situation like this, which is very common in Thailand, and in other countries where Christians are very small minority, it can be greatly encouraging for a Christian believer to get in a car or bus with a small group of other believers and travel several hours to a big event where there are literally thousands of others who trust Christ, just like them.  Christians in lonely situations need to get a glimpse of how BIG the church is, and how many Christians there are in this world. They are NOT crazy for trusting in Christ.  They are NOT alone in believing that salvation is found in Him alone.   Plus, if you bring some non-Christian friends and neighbors along on your road trip to the event, it usually good time spent together and the non-Christians can see that there are a lot more people out there who believe in Christ than just the tiny group in their village.  Traveling to, and joining in, these big events can be really helpful for giving a bigger perspective to both Christians and non-Christians who attend. 

In summary, although large scale evangelistic events could be generally improved by skipping the altar call and adding more meaty, Biblical preaching, even as they stand, they have real value in encouraging local outreach and reminding the saints that the church is bigger than they think.  

For Further Reading

Sense and Nonsense of Large-scale Evangelism

Book Review "The Altar Call - Its Origins and Present Usage" by David Bennett

    
 

When the King of Thailand Jammed with the Baptists

In the early days of Protestant mission work in Thailand, it was common for missionaries to meet Thai royalty, who often kept themselves apprised of the missionaries’ work.  As the country changed and grew, and the 20th century progressed, such relations became less common. 

In the early 1960s, however, a visiting Southern Baptist choir had a unique audience with His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, illustrating the goodness of God’s provision as well as the kind generosity His Majesty and his love of music. Ron Hill, a longtime missionary to Thailand who was involved in early Southern Baptist work in that country relates the story as follows.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama 9) and King Vajiralongkorn (Rama 10), September 4, 1964

“In 1961 the Baptist Students of Texas organized a choir of about 20 to give concerts in the far eastern part of the world. Louis Cobbs, Associate Director of the Baptist Student Union for Texas, was the coordinator of the mission project called "Project Understanding." Dan Pratt, an outstanding vocalist, was the choir director, and Bill Lawson, a wonderful black Baptist Student Director from Houston, was the preacher/speaker. The choir's itinerary included concerts in Hawaii, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Thailand, and many other nations in that part of the world. While in Thailand they were invited to sing for the King and Queen and about 200 members of the royal family. During tea time the King began to play the piano. He invited the choir members to come up and they ended up having quite a session, ending with the singing of "When the Saints Go Marching In." Bill Lawson did "The Creation," from James Weldon Johnson's God's Trombones. The King loved it. The King kept us so long that we were late for a big concert at the Immanuel Church that night. It was Sunday, and you don't leave until the King says you can leave.

“A few years later, Baptists in Thailand were trying to buy land for a Baptist Student Center. A great piece of vacant land was found at a major intersection in Bangkok. It looked perfect, but it was not for sale. It was royal land, the place where a consort of a former king had been murdered some years before. We prevailed on the prince who was handling the land to talk to the King about our interest in purchasing the property. He agreed, and when he mentioned "Baptists" the King asked if that was the same group as the Baptist choir who had sung for him a few years earlier. When assured it was, he said, "Sell it to them!" We got a prime piece of land in the heart of Bangkok for about $60,000. Today, at that intersection in the heart of Bangkok, there is a highly visible Baptist Student Union Center with facilities to accommodate Bible studies, conferences and gatherings of leaders from throughout the nation.”

story excerpted from Bruce Mciver, Riding the Wind of God: A Personal History of the Youth Revival Movement, Macon: Smyth & Helwys Publishers, 2002, p.182-183.

 

Baptist Student Center (BSC), Bangkok

Baptist Student Center (BSC), Bangkok

 

Photo credit: Vajiralongkorn and Bhumibol Adulyadej 1964.09.04.jpg from National Archives via Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Baptist Student Center images from the blog of Rose Lane

    
 

How Theological Education in Thailand is Different from the West

If you spend enough time in Thailand, one of the phrases that you’ll hear often is “Same, Same but Different,” meaning that two things are almost exactly the same… but not really.  The difference may (or may not) be substantial, but that depends on your point of view.  A vendor is trying to sell you a wrist watch and you ask if it is a genuine Rolex.  Well, it is same same from the vendor’s perspective. But the buyer’s might view it differently.

When it comes to theological education in Thailand, there is a lot that is same same as theological education in the Western world…but there are significant differences too.  My point is not to say one in genuine and the other is fake, but rather that on the surface the two have many similarities.  But when you dig a bit deeper there are important difference as well.  These differences have an impact on how teachers teach and how student learn.  Therefore, whether you are teaching Bible school students in Bangkok or running a modular leadership training program in Chiang Rai, it is important to have a heads-up on factors to consider if your previous experience of theological education has been primarily in the West.   In this post, I want to briefly consider, in broad brushstrokes, what is the same between Western and Thai theological education, and three things that are different.

seminary class in chapel

 

Same, Same…

In most theological education in Thailand, especially at a formal Bible college or seminary, you will have classes, teachers, curriculum, textbooks, homework, reading assignments, written papers, and a standard range of Bible school or seminary type courses, such as New Testament, Old Testament, Preaching, Evangelism, Church History, Systematic Theology, and so forth.   Students take exams, memorize Greek vocab from flash cards, give practice sermons, and go to chapel.  They enroll for a Bachelors or Masters degree, or sometimes a Diploma of some sort.  If someone from a Western theological school were picked up and were dropped into a Thai theological school, the overall format and organization would look nearly identical.  Even the titles and authors of some of the translated textbooks would be familiar. 

Despite frequent discussion of contextualization, contextual theology and learner-centered approaches in some circles, the Western model for education is still the accepted standard for quality in today’s world.  Whether it should be is another question.  But functionally, many schools, both religious and non-religious, look to the West for models to emulate.  Some innovative schools chart their own course, to varying degrees of success, but accrediting agencies often maintain traditional Western standards for validating the degrees offered at a school.  If you want recognizition, you need to meet the standard.  I am not trying to say that this is necessarily a bad thing.  There is a lot of value in having an external standard that pushes you to excel.  And there is a lot that is done well in Western theological education.  That said, striving for an internationally accepted standard can create challenges in adjusting your teaching, delivery methods, and expected outcomes to fit the local context.  The “same sameness” between theological education in Thailand and other part of the world is due in no small part to precedents inherited from the West.  However, the Thai context is not exactly the same as the United States, Great Britain, or Australia.  And that difference must be accounted for if the ultimate goal is to prepare students to teach and minister in their own local contexts in Thailand and neighboring countries.  

…But Different!

While I don’t want to exaggerate the ways that Thailand is different or to promote Thai exceptionalism, I have observed subtle (and not so subtle!) ways in which teaching in a seminary in Thailand is different from the theological education I have experienced in Western schools.

1. Orality

The vast majority of Thai people can read.  That has not been an issue with the students I’ve taught in Bangkok.  But do they like to read?  Are they used to reading a lot?  Can they effectively process and analyze the material they are reading?  Will the people they teach after they graduate be able to read?   Many people in the world today, including many Thai, are preferred oral learners.  That means that they can read, but they don’t like to.  When they want to know something, they’d rather ask somebody or watch a video instead of grab a book.  Western theological education, however, assumes a high level of reading ability and assigns many texts to be read and processed, often through writing essays and exams.  Some of my students like reading, fewer enjoy writing, and some don’t appear to enjoy either.  With that in mind, is a very text heavy approach to theological education the best? 

In some ways we can not, and should not, avoid the written word in theological education.  God gave us His Word in a book and a lot of the things that students need to learn are in books.  There is simply not enough time in the day to deliver everything orally to people.  But some (many?) of my students may not learn best with their nose in a book all the time.  And a written test may not be the best way to evaluate what they’ve learned.  And even if my students do okay with book learning, the people they minister to the hills of Northern Thailand or rural villages of the Northeast may not be functionally literate.  How can we prepare students to minister to complete (or nearly complete) oral learners?   

In my own classroom, I have introduced more oral testing, requiring a 10 minute oral interview with each student in lieu of the short answer and essay section of exams.  I also give students a choice between an end-of-term written paper and an oral presentation in front of the class (though they still have to submit a written bibliography).  For church history courses, I ask students to present in front of the class a 5 minute devotional using Scripture and an example from church history.   In missions classes, I introduce my students to oral Bible story telling to make them aware of another method for the studying the Scripture with people besides preaching and traditional text-driven Bible study methods.  I would never want to do away with preaching and Bible reading but we need to have more than one tool in our tool belts to address different styles of learning.

2. Educational & Cultural Background

Due to educational background and cultural conventions, many Thai students are not used to expressing their opinions in contexts where that opinion would contradict what others have said.  Thai are generally concerned about losing face or causing someone else to lose face.  For that reason, many students are hesitant to answer their teacher’s questions and are not accustomed to asking questions because it might imply they were not listening or that the teacher did not explain something well.  This is especially true at the bachelor’s level, and somewhat less so at the master’s level.

Traditionally, the goal of Thai education has been to prepare people for civil service, and only more recently for jobs in various business or industrial sectors.  Learning for learning’s sake and critical thinking have received low priority compared with producing patriotic citizens who know their proper place in society.  Much education in Thailand is done through rote learning and the most important thing for students’ success is being able to reproduce on a test what their teacher told them.

Analyzing the pros and cons of anything is difficult for many students, and classroom discussions are challenging when few students want to be seen as disagreeing with either the teacher or another student.   Coming into a bible college or seminary from the public school system, students have not learned how to read and evaluate various sources, to categorize and synthesize, and to come to their own conclusions based on what they’ve learned.  Most have never learned how to properly footnote or to compare various sources.  Many are unsure how to decide what is important and not important when reading a book, or how to write up a paper with a logical progression of argument.  Many papers are slapped together from various sources without enough thought.  Is it on Wikipedia?  It must be true.  Is the information in a book written by a Christian?  It must be reliable and accurate.  Of course, Western students are not totally immune to these problems either.  But from what I have seen, these issues are more exacerbated and systemic in Thai education than in Western education.

That said, I don’t want to overstate the case.  The students I’ve taught can generally write a book report and piece together a paper on a given topic.  And I have been highly impressed with the thoughtfulness, astute questions, and well-written papers of some students, especially at the masters level.  But at the same time, the ability to discern, analyze, and critically evaluate and synthesize sources is many times not where one might hope for bachelors and masters students.

3. Lack of Resources

Compared to the English-speaking world, there are extremely few Thai language materials available for biblical and theological studies.   There are some Bible commentaries, but some books of the Bible have only one or two commentaries, and those are not always readily available or easy to locate.  I once tried to find a book on Islam from a Christian perspective to give to a church member who had been chatting with some Muslims but I couldn’t find any because there are none.   There is no Thai-language book-length biography of Martin Luther.  There is no Thai-language critical apparatus for the Greek New Testament so students have to try to make heads or tails of English-language commentary on textual variants. One of my students wanted to do a research paper on the history of Presbyterianism but she could only find a short summary in a church history survey book.  As a result, she asked to write on Pentecostalism because there were at least a few books on the history of that movement. 

The library of the bible college where I teach has 25,000 volumes (book, magazines, pamphlets, etc.) but 75% of them are in English.  That might be okay in someplace like India, the Philippines, or Nigeria where the majority of students have a high-level of English ability.  But in Thailand, only a small minority of students know enough English to make much use of the English resources in the school library.  The others limit themselves to what they can find in Thai and sometimes struggle to get something out of an English book or two.  As a result, the breadth and depth of what student are able to learn is more limited than the West because there are few resources in a language that is accessible to them.

This lack of resources may also be partly responsible for the state of biblical and theological knowledge among Thai Christians generally as well.  The average incoming Bible college or seminary student in the West may not know the intricacies of the history and theology of Calvinism and Arminianism but they have probably heard about predestination and free will.  Most incoming students in Thailand haven’t heard of either.

The Differences Make a Difference

Theological education in Thailand can be effective in preparing students for ministry and service to the church.  But it can not be assumed that just because the structure, format, and curriculum of a bible college or seminary in Thailand look similar to a Western school, then the teaching approaches and content should be the same and will have the same results.  There is a lot to be learned from Western approaches to theological education but it is unwise to assume that what’s done in the West can simply be cut-and-pasted to other parts of the world.

Adjustments need to be made in light of local conditions, some of which I have highlighted above for the Thai context.  Other places in the non-Western world may be similar, but they may be very different.  They key is to start with what you know but pro-actively learn what you need to adjust to make your teaching effective where you are, with the resources you have, and with the actual students you have, not the students you don’t have. 

    
 

When it is NOT Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

For anyone who has grown up in a culturally-Christian country, it can be a bizarre experience to be in a majority non-Christian country on December 25th.  It is Christmas, but it isn’t.  During one of my first years in Thailand, a Buddhist majority nation, I remember sitting through a school pep rally on Christmas Day at the government college where I was teaching English. It wasn’t about Christmas.  It was just rah-rah-go-team-our-school-is-great.  It was just a normal day for everyone.  Students went to classes.  Teachers taught.  Everybody went to work.  No mention of Christ, or even Santa Claus, although at the end of the pep rally parade there was an odd non-sequitur effigy of Uncle Sam hanging from gallows with IMF written on his chest.  I didn’t quite understand what that had to do with the rest of the parade.  

Meanwhile, in the United States, it would have been looking a lot like Christmas, or least the Western celebration of it.  Carols. Tinsel.  Presents.  Big sales in the stores.  Everyone asking what everyone else was doing for the holiday.  Schools and businesses closed, and people traveling to see family.  Snow, or at least images of snow.  Regardless of whether people are committed Christians or just enjoying a secular holiday of family, food, and gifts, those are the kinds of things that many Westerners think of when they are getting in the “Christmas spirit” or say that it is beginning to look like Christmas.

As someone who grew up with all of those cultural trappings of Christmas, I missed them.  When I became a Christian as a teenager, I realized that Christmas should be about Jesus more than about getting stuff.  But all the stuff was still around, hence the annual struggle of Christians to try to remember (and remind others) that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”, as the cliché goes.  

But being out of the U.S., and in a country where December 25th is not a public holiday, I was forced to think more seriously about what Christmas was.  Since the culture at large was not going to do much for the holiday (aside from a “Big Gift Festival” Christmas-inspired sale at the local mall), it was up to me and my local church to decide what Christmas was about and how to celebrate.  In many ways, it is a great experience to be someplace that doesn’t have all the cultural Christmas traditions because it forces you to think about what the holiday is really about.

My experience is not unique, however, and I imagine that many missionaries and other expats from Western countries (the former “Christendom”) have had similar experiences, not only today but in the past as well.  While doing some research on Thai church history, I encountered the following Christmas reflection from Mary L. Cort, an American Presbyterian missionary who worked in Phetchaburi province, Thailand in the 1870s. Apparently, she missed snow but found many reasons to rejoice all the same during the Christmas season

 Phetchaburi, Thailand

MISSIONARY LIFE IN SIAM

by Mary L. Cort

Petchaburi, Siam,

Jan 4. 1875

 

A Tropical Climate.

The 25th of December was the strangest Christmas I ever spent in my life. There was no Wintry weather outside, no cold or snow, but sunshine, birds, and flowers. The natives were still busy with their rice harvest, and the trees were still gathering sweetness for their luscious fruits. The air was warm and balmy, and the fragrant hay filled the stalls for the cattle just as in the long ago when the Christ-child laid his sacred head among the sweet dry grasses, and became our blessed human Saviour. How glad I am that in ages past he was born in Bethlehem, and we have a Christmas Day to rejoice in—even one in which the loving Father gave to his children the "unspeakable gift.” O that Christ might be formed in the hearts of this people, and a glad Christmas dawn for darkened Siam! I have no doubt the sunshine of that olden time bathed with morning light the very hills that stand about me where I write. For was not Asia the birthplace of our Lord, and did they not see his star in the East?   Who knoweth from whence the wise men journeyed, or whether the gold, the frankincense, and the myrrh, were, taken from Persia, from India, or Siam? But this I do know, that once again, in the fulness of time there will be a bringing of gifts to the Saviour, and that then many from this land will cast their bright crowns at his feet! 

excerpt from Mary L. Cort, "MISSIONARY LIFE IN SIAM". New York Evangelist (1830-1902), April 29, 1875, 46, 2.

 

photo credit: Kritmongkholrat

    
 

How to Publish a Christian Book in Thailand

People often ask me how to get a Christian book translated into Thai and published in Thailand. Most of those people are missionaries, but occasionally a Thai Christian wants to know how to get an English-language book or a Thai-language book that they wrote into print.  I don’t claim to know everything about publishing in Thailand but I have worked part-time as an editorial and theological advisor at a Thai Christian publisher for a number of years, which is probably sufficient for providing some advice for getting starting in publishing a Christian book in Thailand.  With that in mind, what follows is some general guidelines for publication but I make no claims of being comprehensive and the policies/procedures of various publishers and printers may change without notice.

Thailand needs lots of good, biblical literature to support the work of evangelism, discipleship, church planting, and leadership development and I am glad whenever I hear of someone’s desire to publish a good Christian book of that variety.  I assume that anyone who wants to publish a Christian book wants it to make as big an impact as possible, so there are two major issues to consider here:

1) the actual translation and publishing of the book

2) distribution of the book AFTER it is published

I’ll get to distribution later in the post (as well as some FAQs), but please don’t skip that part because distribution is just as important as publication.  In terms of publication, there are 2 primary routes for publishing a Christian book in Thailand:

 

1) Formal Publication

This means that a publisher decides to take on a book as part of their regular catalogue and does their own editorial process, and publication and is distributed with their other books.  The publisher secures copyright, contracts a translator, does editing, cover art, typesetting, printing, etc. It also provides a second set of eyes (an editor) to iron out and improve oversights on the translator's part. This takes longer to get things published, but provides better visibility and distribution in the end.   A formally published book will be held in stock by the publisher who send it to their network of booksellers and will also take care of sales, shipping, receipting, royalties, etc.  The funds for this may come from the publisher themselves, or be funded by an outside source. 

One challenge in pursuing formal publication is that most Christian publishers in Thailand have a very small staff and budget, and often have a long queue of books awaiting translation and publication.  You may have a great book to publish, but it might not be a priority for a publisher who has a whole bunch of other great books that they are working on as well.  However, if you really want to get broad distribution of your book and make it known among Thai Christians beyond your personal network, it is worth approaching a Thai Christian publisher and seeing what they say.  

There are several Thai Christian publishers but a couple major ones would be Kanok Bannasan (OMF Publishers Thailand) and CED (Christian Education and Development).  These publishers are both based in Bangkok.

2) Private Publication

This means that the person/organization who wants to publish a book arranges for their own translation, editing, and secures all necessary copyright permissions and then pays a publisher, printer, or print-on-demand company to publish however many copies they want.   The type-setting, formatting, cover art, etc may be done by the publisher for a fee, according to what the person/organization requires.  All those books belong to the person/organization who can distribute them however they want (i.e. internal-use only for an organization / contacting bookstores personally to see if they want stock/selling it through a website, etc).  If desired, it is sometimes possible for the publisher/printer to sell copies of the book on a consignment basis, and provide some limited distribution and advertising.

There are a number of printers in Thailand but I want to highlight two which serve the Thai Christian and missionary community.

Publish2Day offers print-on-demand and other services for those wanting to publish Christian books (in whatever language) and ActsCo offers a wide range of printing services as well. Both are located in Chiang Mai. 

Distribution

reading book asian boy reading book 7158 101413 gs7158Distribution is the second part of book publication that many people don't think about, and as a result lots of churches/groups/missionaries translate good materials that no one knows about because they don't have any vision or plan for getting these materials out to the broader Thai Christian community.  If you want to your book to benefit people, you need to think not only about how to fund translation and publishing, but how to get materials out to people.  Although some people publish books to hand out for free rather than for sale, it is not necessary to give stuff away for free in order to reach a broad audience.  A small book at a small price is very attractive to many Thai believers if they happen to see the book. 

If you are going the formal publication route, you will have a huge advantage in distribution.  You’ll still probably want to advertise the book online and get somebody (or a few people) sharing them on Facebook, LINE, etc. to get some good "air-time."  If you go with private publication, online advertising will be all the more vital.  However, you can’t rely on online advertising alone.  Most Thai Christians still buy their books at brick-and-mortar Thai Christian bookshops, not online.  A self-distribution plan should include sending samples of your book to Thai Christian bookshops to see if they would like to order more.  

Also, it is sometimes possible to ask a publisher like Kanok to hold a portion of your books in stock on consignment for them to advertise via Facebook, website, and within their network of Christian booksellers in Thailand.  You would have to, of course, work out a financial arrangement with anyone who takes your books on consignment.  It would not be unusual for the publisher/person holding your stock to keep 50% of the cover price as their fee for holding stock, advertising, and processing and shipping orders.

I highly recommend the consignment route for distribution if possible because, 

1) A publisher/bookshop can often get the word out to a much larger segment of the Thai Christian & missionary community than you can personally, and

2) You probably don't want to take the time and hassle to receive emails and phone calls for orders for the book(s) and then take the time to package and ship orders. 

 

Translating and Publishing FAQ

  1. How much would a full-time translator cost?

Translators are often hired freelance, per project, rather than on a monthly salary basis.  Depending on the book, the translation price would vary according to length, difficulty of material, etc.  But just as a rough estimate, a 150-200 page book of medium difficulty would be 20,000-30,000 baht for translation.  Don’t hold me to that estimate, however!  Prices can vary greatly from translator to translator, and project to project.  Generally speaking, the longer the book, and the more difficult/academic it is, the higher the price.   If you hired a full-time person on a salary basis, you'd have to come to a careful understanding of how quickly you expect them to work.  Otherwise, a translation job could drag on forever.  That said, for translators of English to Thai, the most common problem is people translating too wooden-literally and rushing through, rather than taking too long because they are perfectionists.

  1. What should I look for in a translator?

There are a handful of Thai Christians who could do a decent translation job and may be available.  The problem that some people run into is that paying on a per-project basis results in translators plowing through the job to get it done and move on to the next project.  That is not universally the case, but it is not uncommon.

If you pay per-project, the translator is motivated to get it done quickly rather than drag it out.  That is good for getting things moving, but it can be bad because translators sometimes don't take the time to really work through difficult to translate parts, and just write something down to get it done.  Therefore, idiomatic or Western cultural expressions are sometimes slaughtered in translation, and theological concepts are rendered poorly in Thai.  In hiring a translator, you also need to think about their knowledge of Bible and theology.  If they don't "get" the biblical concepts that they are translating, they may not translate them correctly.  Materials that are stories, history, or personal/devotional in nature, are easier to translate and less subject to error.  The more biblical/theological the concepts, the more challenging it is to get a good translation.  This is a big reason why you MUST have someone who knows both languages proofread and/or edit the Thai translation that you have outsourced to a translator.

  1. How do I estimate publication costs for my book project?

If you are working up a budget estimate in order fundraise or apply for project funds, I suggest developing an estimate for publication rather than just printing.  What's the difference?  

Printing means sending your finalized PDF (with text layout, fonts, cover art, etc) to the printer to physically print the book.  

Publishing includes the cost not only for physically printing the book, but all the cost for someone to take your plain vanilla MS Word doc and do the text formatting and book layout, work up some cover art, etc.   Unless you and your team have awesome expertise in book layout and graphic design, it much better just to hire someone (like Kanok, or CED, or Publish2Day, or ActsCo) to do the formatting, layout, and cover art rather than mess around with it yourself.  The end product will have a polished professional look to it.  Trying to do that stuff yourself will take much more time and not come out as well, so it is better to leave it to the professionals.

It is nearly impossible to estimate a general printing cost for a book without knowing what book it is and what is necessary (such as interior art or not? are there graphics that need to be redone to work with Thai?).   So here is what you'd need to do to get a cost estimate for a given book:

  1. for book XYZ, get a quote for translation from a freelance editor
  2. then get a quote from a freelance editor to read through and make corrections on the translation (could just be a different translator who you hire to only edit/proofread)
  3. get a quote from a publisher/printer on what it would cost for them to do layout, cover art, etc. and print X number of copies of book XYZ

When you have those 3 numbers, you can put together a quote for publication of book XYZ. An initial print run for a Thai Christian book averages 1500-2000 books.  

  1. Should I  budget for an outside editor to look over the translated work?  

Yes, absolutely.  Do not just get something translated and then go straight to publication.  Good books are rendered virtually useless through a lack of editing, and it can come back to bite you later if the Thai doesn't correspond to the English sufficiently, or if the translation is so clunky that nobody wants to read it.  

If a translation is done well, the editor's job is easy because not many changes need to be made.  But if the translation was a rush job and doesn't read very well, the editor's job can be a nightmare and take a long time to massage and edit the translation into something accurate and readable.  The quality of the initial translation factors into the time and cost that it will require to have an editor review the translation.

For Further Reading

The following links related to translation and publishing may be useful for as you think about translating, publishing, and distributing written and spoken content.

Ten Tips on Teaching Through Translation

Writing for Translation: 7 Translation Tips to Boost Content Quality

    
 
   


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