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Getting To Know Your Translator

Lesson Plans > Religious Training > Preaching > Cross Cultural

Getting To Know Your Translator

Public speaking in a situation which involves a translator should be perceived, when possible, as a partnership. How effectively you communicate is dependent on how well your translator communicates, so you should try to get to know your translator before you begin working together. Unfortunately, you may not have much time to find out anything about your translator, so make wise use of your time. The following suggestions may be helpful.

Find out his level of fluency
Your translator may be fluent in one or both of the languages in use. The most difficult situation (I have found) is to have a translator who is not fluent in my language. If he is not fluent in English, he may have to interrupt my train of thought to ask me to rephrase.

Once I spoke through a translator in a Sudanese church, and I was very cautious to use very simple language, because I was unsure of my translator's fluency. A couple months later my younger brother spoke to the same congregation using the same translator. His message was filled with a strong vocabulary and a plethora of theological terms which I had avoided. The translator didn't hesitate once. Now I know. But if you are unsure, it's better to be safe than sorry!

Does the translator understand your subject matter?
What happens when you are working as a missionary and your translator isn't even a Christian? Yes, this situation does happen, and it happens far more often than you might expect. In that case, it's important for you to find out what he knows and what he doesn't know. If your translator is not versed in your subject matter, you are going to have to keep your wording very simple in order to make sure he can get your ideas across exactly as you want them presented.

Of course, if he is well versed in your subject area, and you feel confident in his abilities, you can say (as I have done) "Don't worry about getting what I say exact, I trust you to get the general idea of what I'm saying across to the congregation."

How much can he handle?
This is a matter of simple courtesy. Ask your translator how much he can handle translating at once. Listen to what he has to say, and as much as possible, comply with what he tells you. Your translator will be all the more eager to do a good job if he knows that you want to work with him, rather than treating him like a servant who is there to do your bidding.
Lesson by Mr. Twitchell

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