A dozen tips for using an interpreter

Having to speak through an interpreter can be a good experience . . . or it can be a bad one.

Speaking or preaching through a translator

Ahead of time
1. Pray with your interpreter beforehand. Prayer has a way of bonding people together.
2. Go over scripture passages and main points with your translator ahead of time. That gives your interpreter time to think about how to express what you're going to say.
3. Help your interpreter know exactly what you hope to communicate by giving him or her a theme sentence or phrase that sums up what you want to say.
During your presentation
4. Speak in complete thoughts. Grammar and syntax vary from language to language. So, unless you give complete thoughts, you can leave an interpreter hanging and unsure of which direction to go in terms of translating.
5. Avoid complex sentences and parenthetical "rabbit trails." Translators will forget parts of complex sentences. Audiences will be confused by the "rabbit trails."
6. Realize that translators occasionally must backtrack to clarify something.
7. Do not recite poems. It is impossible to translate poetry "on the fly."
8. Avoid using slang words and idiomatic expressions.
9. Realize that humor which depends on specific words likely will not translate well.
10. Be visual. Draw word pictures.
11. When you pause for translation, maintain eye contact with the audience rather than turning to watch your interpreter.
12. Warmly thank your translator. Apologize for the fact that you did not know the target language. Express appreciation for the fact that interpreters generally expend more mental energy than do the speakers they are translating.

SNU missions course materials and syllabi

Cultural Anthropology    Introduction to Missions    Linguistics    Missions Strategies    Modern Missionary Movement (History of Missions)    Nazarene Missions    Church Growth and Christian Missions    Theology of Missions    Traditional Religions    World Religions
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Howard Culbertson, 5901 NW 81st, Oklahoma City, OK 73132  |  Phone: 405-740-4149 - Fax: 405-491-6658
Updated: February 6, 2019

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