Since first establishing Profitable Speech in 1994, my audiences have all been within the United States and for the most part English has been their first language or they were fluent in English. I’ve not had the good fortune of addressing an audience who spoke a different language, necessitating an interpreter. Have you?
Let’s first understand that an interpreter is different from a translator. The first specializes in the spoken word while the latter places attention on written communication. Now that we’ve cleared up that issue, let’s move on. Recently I read a post by John Zimmer which prompted my interest in this topic. As part of my research, I’ll be referencing pointers from the following experts: John Zimmer, Nancy Duarte and Michelle Mazur. I hope you find this information as helpful as I did.
1. Prepare half as much material (Duarte and Zimmer). I always tell my clients that timing is everything, which is why this pointer resonated with me. It makes sense that once your voice must be interpreted, it involves extra time.
2. Transcribe or write out your talk (Duarte and Zimmer). This seems logical as it’s part of your preparation. The more advance notice you provide, the more effective the interpreter can be.
3. Speak slowly and enunciate (Zimmer). This makes it easier for your interpreter, which means a higher likelihood your audience will also understand.
4. Work through idioms and metaphors; avoid colloquialisms (Duarte and Zimmer). It’s easy to forget how many idioms we use in our day-to-day communication. These can be easily misunderstood so it’s best to avoid them in the first place since you want to have optimal impact.
5. Use humor carefully (Zimmer and Mazur). This is a point I make to all my clients even when an interpreter isn’t needed. Humor is personal so it’s wise to use it sparingly and avoid jokes at all costs.
6. Keep eye-contact with your audience and not the interpreter (Mazur). Looking directly at your audience is one of the best ways to connect and build rapport.
7. Rephrase rather than repeat (Mazur). It’s always tempting and a classic mistake to restate something you said or even speak louder, in hopes that it will be understood. What’s far more effective is to figure out another way to say your message by rephrasing it. You may want to consider some synonyms that will work well.
Thanks to these experts who’ve contributed helpful information regarding working through an interpreter. If you have the opportunity to address an audience who speaks a language different than yours…embrace the opportunity and select your interpreter carefully.