Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Translator Torture

This video on the torture of a perfectly good translator is making it's rounds among ministerial blogs:

If you've never used a translator or tried to translate yourself, you might not get it.

I have some experience using translators. Currently we use two primary translators in Venezuela as well as one or two other Venezuelans who have learned some English. Actually, only one can accurately be called a translator, reciting almost word-for-word what is said. The others are better referred to as interpreters. I still find it disconcerting when I say something that takes only a very few words and the interpreter takes two or three sentences to convey my intended meaning. My attention span is dubious at best and it's a humorous way to cut to questions while I try to get my train of thought back on track.

Silly me once tried to use a translator to have a congregation of mostly Spanish-only and English-only speakers sing a simple praise chorus in both languages simultaneously. The resulting confusion was a lesson in disunity.

We have a preacher who travels with us who brings his favorite hand-puppet, Baggie the Bear. One year, he used Baggie to introduce a sermon. he has a special silly voice that he uses with Baggie. the funny thing was the translator imitated his voice in Spanish when he translated for Baggie.

One last thing. I had a translator once who I knew had studied his theological terms in Spanish, so I was comfortable taking the level of discourse up a notch. I brought up the term "propitiation" and was immediately asked by someone in the class to define it. I made the mistake of including the word "atonement" in the first sentence of my explanation. Even in Spanish, it's helpful to keep things simple.

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