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non-native english speakers

We had four Ukrainians book on our youth group residential less than four days before it started. By God's grace, we discovered some resources, that made things easier for everyone. Be aware that not all Ukrainians have Ukrainian as their first language, some speak Russian. Also be aware that translating into Russian may offend some Ukrainians.

Most of what we have learnt is adaptable for other languages.

Let me know if you've got more ideas, if there's anything else you need or if anything can be improved.

Microsoft Translator
Microsoft Translator Logo.jpg

microsoft's translator

The most helpful option I've found at the moment is Microsoft's translator. You can find it here.

To speak to an individual

Click on the microphone. Input, for example, English on the left, Russian on the right. Switch to Auto. Tap the mic to start. Now the phone is listening for both languages and will translate as necessary. If your volume is turned up, you and your listener will hear your and their language. Occasionally it will switch off and you'll need to press the microphone at the bottom of the screen again. What it is translating appears on the screen in both languages, so it's easy to check if it's heard you correctly and repeat yourself if necessary.

To speak to a big group

The speaker and any listeners who want translation need to download the app. If you're the speaker, click on the two heads, then press 'Start conversation'. This creates a five-letter code. Pass this on to your listeners, who input this number under 'Join conversation'. They can choose the language they hear/read you in.

Vincent Murphy, Curate of Christ Church, Virginia Water has been using the app recently and writes:

"Three main advantages:


  1. We can support Chinese and Ukrainian (and anything else) all at once, unlike powerpoint which only allows one language at a time,

  2. It avoids the captioning becoming a distraction to others; and

  3. It also supports English so becomes an accessibility/inclusion feature for the deaf.

However it does need people to either have their own device or be lent one."

Some notes from our experience:

  • Set your device to 'Always on'/'Never lock automatically' to make sure your device doesn't go into standby.

  • On Microsoft Translator, once you've started the conversation, press the three dots at the top right of your screen and switch the conversation into 'Presenter mode' to keep it listening.

  • Under that same three dots, you might also want to 'Mute All' so other people can't input their thoughts on your talk. Alternatively, you might see that option as a benefit!

  • Have another leader log in with the number and check that the app is working properly as you start. It was funny the time the speaker accidentally entered their language as French, when they were speaking English. The app desperately tried to find a French word hidden among the English, so it could translate it. Funny, but not really helpful for people who were struggling to understand anyway.

"Hi Dave, I've started reading your book today and I can't stop recommending it to people! It's SO good!"


Alex Stewart, Youth and Community Worker, St Mary's Aston on Mersey



Another useful app I've found is the SayHi Translate app, not to be confused with a dating app with a similar name! This listens to you talking and translates it into various languages and dialects, including Ukrainian and Russian.

It then speaks it out loud or you can read what was said.

Many of our young people on camp downloaded this and then had chats round the dining table or translated during small groups.


Doulingo logo.png

OK, so it had to be said. Start learning the language by downloading the Duolingo app. You can learn both Ukrainian and Russian. It does take time, but after 90 days, I can now say, 'My mother is unemployed,' which may come in useful at some point.


Some of our teenagers are now learning Russian daily to be able to converse with their new Ukrainian friends.

Apps for translation

starting off

Paul Thaxter, who has welcomed Ukrainians to Southampton and attends St James by the Park, offers this advice to leaders:

  • Ask the guardians of the teenagers what they would recommend. 

  • Ask the teenagers what they would like from the group via their guardians.

  • Make sure you know their names and where they’re from. Make sure that the other young people can pronounce their names well and offer them a welcome.

  • Prepare the team and young people not to be superficially curious of their dilemma. If they want to share let them. 

  • Be genuine 

  • Be gentle

  • Be inclusive

  • Admit the challenge you all face 

  • Don't spotlight them unnecessarily

  • Use imaginative techniques to communicate

  • Teenagers are teenagers - we never know what they are processing

  • Remember most communication is non-verbal! 

  • Remain confident in your gifting

Starting off

Hayley Boag gives some practical advice:

"Set up activities and games that are simple and don't rely on using words e.g. Jenga, red-light-green-light, and so on. Maybe even activities where they can be 'there' but can retreat too, if they aren't comfortable with what is going on - eg. colouring books for teens, Connect4 or some simple board game. You could try doing Dobble - as a way of teaching simple words? Or they can say the Ukrainian/Russian word?

For your group, start using lots more visual elements and videos. The video alone will convey the story in a great way to those not able to speak English well. I'd stick to the simple things - like using the pictures of Two Ways to Live, or the one from the children's tract 'Who Will be King?'

But most of all, the relational time alone will be fantastic. You loving them, praying and caring for them in the name of Jesus will show them so much."

subtitle your session in a different language or dialect

Here was our easiest win on our recent youth residential. Apparently, most teachers know this, but I had no idea. You can have automatic subtitles run on a PowerPoint screen. 

As long as you have PowerPoint running, you can translate into a multitude of languages instantly.

Check out the video to see my good friend Simon Barber explain how it works. 

Subtitles in PowerPoint does sometimes lead to some interesting, and rather humorous mistakes, but generally it's a great blessing. I'm sure speaking clearly and slowly helps it, but we all do that anyway..., don't we?!


filling in forms in ukrainian

We use these questions for our youth residentials. We had them translated into Ukrainian by a Ukrainian speaker.

If you think they could be improved, please let me know here.

Young Person's First / Surname / Ім'я / прізвище дитини

Parent or Carer's Email/Електронна пошта мами або тата/опікуна

Parent or Carer's Mobile / Номер мобільного телефону тата або мами/опікуна

Notes / Примітка

Sex / Стать

Male / чоловік

Female / жінка

Date of Birth / Дата народження

School Year / Який клас

Postal Address / Адреса проживання


Postcode / Поштовий індекс

Young Person: I would prefer to have a single room (we'll try) / Молода людина: Я хотів(-ла) бути одному(-ій) в кімнаті (це може бути неможливо, але ми спробуємо)

Yes / так

Young Person: I would like to share a room with / Молода людина: Я хотів(-ла) б розділити кімнату з

Young Person: I understand there will be Christian teaching at the weekend away and I agree to co-operate with leaders at all times / Молода людина: Я розумію, що там будуть християнські вчення і я погоджуюся співпрацювати з лідерами в будь-який час

Any dietary needs or allergies / Будь-які дієтичні потреби або алергія

Any health needs or requirements (e.g. hearing or mobility needs) / Будь-які медичні потреби або вимоги (наприклад, слух або пересування)

My child will be bringing medication with them / Моя дитина принесе із собою ліки

No / ні

Yes - and they will keep and self-administer / так, і вони будуть мати їх при собі і самостійно приймати

Yes - and I would prefer the designated medical person to keep and administer the medication / так, і я хотів(-ла) б, щоб призначена медична особа зберігала їх і вводила ліки

If your child is arriving late or leaving early, please say what times. / Якщо ваша дитина приходить пізно або йде раніше, повідомте, будь ласка, о котрій годині

Parent/Carer: I give permisson for my child to take part in the Download Weekend Away / Батьки/Опікун: Я даю згоду своїй дитині взяти участь у "Download Weekend Away"

Parent/Carer Signature / Підпис батьків/опікуна


Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay


Here's what can happen when you push the boat out a little farther. We talked to Ukrainian speakers before our recent residential and got a list from them of songs we know, that there are also Ukrainian words to.

Then we picked a simple Ukrainian worship song to a tune we knew, sent to the rest of the group a link to the video on YouTube and a transliteration of the text and encouraged our English-speaking young people to learn the song before our youth residential.

Here's the goose bump moment as a mixed group of British and Ukrainian teenagers sing a Ukrainian version of 'How great is our God' (by Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves and Ed Cash on songs (ASCAP), sixsteps Music  (ASCAP) and Wondrously Made Songs (BMI)). If you know who wrote the lyrics to this, please let me know and I'll credit them.

With many thanks to Rebecca Giddens, without whom this would not have been possible.

extra mile not enough?

Hannah Boadle, Youth Worker at Parr Street Church in Kendal writes:


"A few things I've found useful.. Create a space for the Ukranian parents/carers to meet during the youth group. They have found this a useful time to connect with one another, to have a cuppa and catch up. It's also really important to get to know the parents, to show love and care for them. This has been impactful within our church family. We have quite a few Ukrainian families who didn't previously attend church coming along.

We have a local Christian who is a play therapist, who we asked to run a session for the parents, thinking particularly about parenting through trauma and giving tools to the parents. We looked after the children whilst this was going on.


I've had to reassess some games which were too complex to explain!! But we've enjoyed playing more physical games and games involving numbers.


It's been a real blessing for us having the Ukrainian youth join us, I'm praying as we begin the new term we can continue this work."

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Or read the chapter 'Cherish' in my book, 'Raising the Bar: Nearly everything you need to know about Christian youth ministry.'

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