Tips for Public Speaking with a Translator- Part Two

Jul 25, 2012


While we have been in Brazil, I have spoken a couple of times a week to churches, small groups, and even in a couple of corporate settings. Every talk thatI have given has required someone to translate it into Portuguese. I have also had the privilege over the last thirty years to teach and preach in many different countries, being helped by some incredible translators. Here are a few thoughts on working with a translator. This is part two of the article. You can read part one here.

5. Don’t Talk Too Fast. Even the best translators can get lost if the speaker talks too fast. Force yourself to slow your delivery down. Your translator and your audience will appreciate it!

6. Humor Does Not Always Translate. If you enjoy starting your presentation with a joke or funny story, realize that what is funny in one culture is not necessarily funny in another. This is especially true with jokes. I have found that what works for me, no matter where I am in the world, is to tell a story on myself. A story where I am the butt of the joke always gets laughs. I included a few of those in my blog if you want some examples. If you are not sure how something will translate, ask your translator ahead of time. They will let you know whether or not the joke or story will work.

7. Use Illustrations that are Easy to Understand. Like humor, stories and illustrations do not always transfer easily into another language or culture. Years ago, I led a team of pastors to Ghana, West Africa. One of the pastors had never been out of the United States before. One night, he was preaching at an open air crusade in a very poor village. One of the points of his message was how important the Bible is in providing us with insight and guidance in our daily lives. This pastor then tried to illustrate his point, “If you buy a washing machine to wash your laundry, you are going to read the instruction manual before you try and use it. The Bible is our instruction manual.” This created a very awkward moment in the meeting. The translator was not sure what a washing machine was so the pastor had to try and explain it to him. The village we were in did not even have electricity. We were conducting the meeting with a portable generator. Clearly, the villagers would not know what a washing machine was. As a result of a bad illustration, the meeting came to a standstill. This is another case of where if you are in doubt, ask your translator ahead of time.

Can you think of any other tips for working with a translator?

Would you like to help Annie and I have an impact in Brazil? Please click here. Obrigado! (Thank you!)

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