If you present or speak internationally, sooner or later may find yourself working with a translator. The translator’s role is a complex and difficult one. First, they are converting language. Second they’re translating meaning, context and intent. Third, they are conveying the feelings of the speaker as projected by tone of voice. It’s not an easy task and requires a very special skills level.
The most important question you should ask yourself is, as always, what is your main objective? Usually it will be that as many people in the audience as possible obtain a clear understanding of your message. Here are a handful of basic delivery tips that could stand you in good stead:
1. Slow down. The faster you speak the more difficult it is for the translator to convert everything you say and the greater the chance that important parts of your message are lost.
2. Simplify your language. This is not the time to demonstrate your command of your mother tongue. “Simple” is easier to understand and therefore easier to translate. It will also make a stronger impact.
3. Use shorter sentences. They are easier for the translator to convert, and easier for your audience to understand.
4. Eliminate catch phrases and slang. Translation requires high concentration levels for long periods. Translating catch phrases and slang requires double translation which takes longer. In this instance the translator must first translate in their minds, then work out what you meant and then articulate their interpretation of your intended meaning. You will understand how this increases the risk of misinterpretation. The easier you can make it for the translator, the better the translator can do their job effectively.
Translating from English to another language is complex for a number of reasons. English is a rich language with over 2000 words in everyday use. Accents vary making some words prone to misinterpretation depending on pronunciation. Even within a small regional area, dialects can be quite different. If you speak English with a strong regional accent, best to create an opportunity for the translator to get used to you in advance!
If you use visuals, think of perhaps translating your key points. This requires some preparation. The most important rule here is that you should keep text to the absolute minimum.
In order for translation to take place you will be required to use a microphone. A headset or lapel microphone has the advantage of remaining the same distance from your mouth throughout. It is important to ensure that you have it properly set up. A hand held microphone is more tricky as it restricts your gestures and tends to vary in distance from your mouth.
Translators are human beings with very special skills and should be treated with kindness, respect and appreciation. After all, for those people in the audience relying on the translation, the translator can literally make or break your speech or presentation. I am a firm fan of the former.