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|The Perils of Simultaneous Translation|
Oct. 28th, 2010 at 9:46 am
This past weekend was our stake conference, which was broadcast from the stake center to other chapels in the area. I was attending the Spanish speaking ward and was keeping an eye on the screen while listening to Spanish language translation of the talks and prayers which were given in English.
I quickly realized that our translator faced a bit of a quandary. He was listening to a talk and then speaking the words into a microphone – but while he was speaking the translation the speaker of the talk was continuing to give the talk – which meant the translator was not going to hear some things that were said. Consequently, those attending the meeting were only hearing bits and pieces of some talks that were given, depending on the speed of the speaker’s delivery.
I quickly noticed a difference in the speaking styles of those who had been asked to give talks. Some spoke very quickly and some spoke quite slowly and deliberately. Those who spoke slowly and deliberately were much easier to translate. Some who spoke very quickly or who quoted lengthy passages of scripture – made translating much more challenging for the translator.
I’ve been thinking about the rigors of translation in general because just one week previous I had been asked to translate a talk for an English speaker who was visiting our ward. She was kind enough to provide me with a copy of her talk the day previous – so I was able to plug the talk into Google Translate – which did a remarkable, instantaneous job of translating the talk into better Spanish than I ever could have arrived at on my own. Also, I was able to look up her scripture references, get the scriptures from the Spanish scripture portion of the LDS website, and copy and paste them into the talk – so that if she decided to quote the scriptures, I could simply read the scriptures from the page. I was so grateful that a) she went to the effort of providing me with her prepared remarks and b) for the online tools and resources that we now have available.
Our stake is pretty diverse and I imagine many other stakes are similar. Our stake has a Chinese branch, a deaf branch, a Spanish ward – as well as the English wards. Any time our stake has a conference, translation is going to need to take place. This is probably true in many places. So I would just like to give some quick and easy tips, based on my limited experience, to those who might be called to speak in a context where their talks might need to be translated:
1) Whenever possible, if you know that your talk is going to be translated, see if you arrange to make a copy of your talk available to those who will be translating. If you are able to do this, do not stray greatly from the text that you have prepared. If you are NOT able to do this, be aware that the translator will need to translate any resources (scriptures, stories, etc.) that you might utilize. Not all translators are prepared to translate the King James English of the scriptures on the spot.
2) Speak slowly and deliberately, pause just briefly between sentences. If someone is required to do simultaneous translation, this gives them a better chance of hearing and translating everything you are saying.
3) Use simple words and language – be aware that some of your translators might be returned missionaries whose language capabilities are largely based on teaching the gospel and not on reading newspapers or watching television – sources that provide a greater diversity of vocabulary than teaching the missionary discussions.
4) For priesthood leaders who are in charge of conducting meetings, give special attention to who is chosen to do the translating and also to what equipment is available for translation. If you are involved in conducting a conference that will last for two hours, it’s a good idea to have more than one translator for each language, so that the translators can take turns and rest when needed.
5) Lastly, have a couple of glasses of water available for the translators.