A frequently asked question here at the World Service Office (WSO) is “Who translates our Conference Approved Literature (CAL)?” Because, after all, CAL is available in more than 40 languages! The short answer is that, in most cases, Al‑Anon members do. However, it would be a mistake to think that any member can take the initiative to translate and begin publishing any piece of CAL. There is an organized system of requesting and granting permission which is overseen by the International Coordination Committee with help from the International Team at the WSO.

In my years working with that system, I have come to view it as a mix of technical procedures and spiritual principles. Technical procedures are necessary for accurate recordkeeping and to ensure effective protection of our copyrights and publishing standards. Our spiritual principles guarantee that none of us forgets why we are following the procedures in the first place—to ensure a future for ourselves and for those families and friends of alcoholics who have yet to find us. I believe this balance may be what our cofounders were alluding to when they wrote, “While our objectives are spiritual, these aims can be achieved only by means of an effective business operation.” (2018-2021 Al‑Anon/Alateen Service Manual [P-24/27] version two [2], Concept Six, page 189.)

It all begins with the creation of CAL, in itself a mix of the technical and spiritual. The WSO develops original CAL in English and uses professional translators to draft the French and Spanish versions. These translations are reprinted in French-speaking and Spanish-speaking countries around the world. For all other languages, translation is done by members of the structure that has permission to print in that language. Permission is granted by the Board of Trustees for Al‑Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.

Translation occurs when local members form a Literature Committee that works together to select items, secure the necessary files from the WSO, and translate each piece of CAL. The WSO does not provide personnel or financial resources to translate CAL. However, WSO Staff do sometimes request volunteers to review a translated manuscript before it is finalized. The review is a safeguard against any translations that might be technically accurate but fail to convey the warmth and spirituality that can be found in our English-language literature. WSO Staff ensure that translated CAL is produced with the same quality as the original works. Translated CAL that differed from the original in spiritual or production quality would do a disservice to the members who need it.

A structure that wishes to translate CAL must request permission ahead of time. Members must confirm that no outside funds will be used in the publication of CAL and that they will share in the responsibility to protect the copyright. One way they currently do this is by agreeing to restrict sales of CAL to the territory defined by the structure’s national borders. As our world moves increasingly online, there are challenges to be met and questions to be answered regarding global availability of CAL. The WSO, the Board of Trustees, the World Service Conference, and the International Al‑Anon General Services Meeting are facing these questions using Al‑Anon’s unique blend of business and spiritual ideals.

By Kerri K., Associate Director—International 

The Forum, October 2020

Feel free to reprint this article on your website or in your newsletter, along with this credit line: Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al‑Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.