Prevent a Translation Disaster When Presenting

by Gilda Bonanno LLC 

A client shared with me the following story of translation gone wrong:

A speaker presented in Japan to 80 people at an association meeting.  The association found a local high school student who was fluent in English and used him as a translator. 

However, he didn’t know the technical jargon and the speaker spoke too quickly for the translator to keep up. As a result, the audience was frustrated because they didn’t get the full presentation and the benefit of the speaker’s expertise.

Here are 9 tips to prevent a translation disaster from happening to you:
  1. Decide which is best for the situation: simultaneous translation (where the translator listens to your sentence and translates it immediately while he or she is also listening to your next sentence) or consecutive translation (where you pause every few minutes to allow the translator to speak).  Both have their challenges and not every translator can do both well.
  2. Find a translator with translation experience, ideally in the area of technical expertise that you’re speaking about.
  3. Always send your material to the translator ahead of time so they have time to prepare.
  4. Spend time with the translator before your presentation (ideally in person) to go through your entire talk, paying special attention to idioms and industry jargon.
  5. Check with the translator about any humor you have planned, including avoiding sensitive or taboo topics.
  6. Understand the cultural nuances of whether people will laugh or ask questions and how you can check for understanding.
  7. Decide whether/how you will handle questions.
  8. When delivering, speak slowly and enunciate. 
  9. Check in occasionally during your presentation to make sure the audience understands what you’re saying.

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