Being true to what is said, but also keeping in mind differences in language and culture, is not always easy. Anyone who has used an online translator has likely experienced a ‘word for word’ translation that makes absolutely no sense.
An effective translator is an active participant in the process, but needs to keep the focus on the speaker, not themselves. When I started translating, I ‘edited’ and ‘revised’ a whole lot. I would take the general idea and then just kind of go with it, adding in my own embellishments to ‘strengthen’ what was being said.
This was wrong, as it made it about me, not the speaker. When a listener starts engaging me instead of directing their questions and comments to the speaker, I know I’m getting in the way.I’ve learned that it is important to not just translate the words, but the way in which it is said, too. There is nothing worse than watching an impassioned speaker and then hearing the words translated in a flat monotone. As odd as it sounds, this, too, detracts attention from the speaker and message.
I still get frustrated when I don’t understand what is being said, and have to stop the flow of things to ask the speaker to repeat, or even find another phrase to get the point across. Again, the attention is diverted, and both speaker and listener are pulled out of the moment.A good translator is one you start to forget is there because it almost seems the speaker is speaking your language. What keeps me at it, striving to improve, are those times when translation hits that ‘sweet spot’. In those moments, Kimberley is put to the side.
I remember one such occasion. Daisy wanted to talk one-on-one with a troubled student. Daisy’s English is good, but not sufficient for what she needed to say. Daisy shared a story about her own life, connecting it to what was happening in the young woman’s. In truth and love she spoke challenging words, encouraging the student to confront and then surrender years of hate.As often happens in the Social Work site, the conversation led to tears. Good tears, releasing pain and guilt. I sat in between them, completely present, and yet, outside of it, too. Even though I was doing 50% of the talking, the student was completely focused on Daisy, not me.
The funny thing is, instead of feeling put-out, I felt content. This wasn’t about me. It was about allowing these two to connect at the heart level. To speak and be understood. To bless each other across languages and cultures. For a time, the Social Work site felt like a sanctuary. A holy place where Jesus met us.
As Christians we have the privilege and responsibility to help connect others to Jesus. What kind of a ‘translator’ am I? Is my style one of editing and even excising those parts of life with Christ that are difficult? Do I use my own opinions to interpret, instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through me?
Am I so unenthused about my faith that the amazing, live-giving good news of salvation becomes a toneless drone? Or, have I taken the trouble to learn enough of God’s ‘language’ as He has given in His Word, to share effectively?Ideally, we mature in our faith, getting to the point where we decrease so that Christ in us will increase. It’s not that we are not present, but it stops being about us. When we are working in that ‘sweet spot’, we are a conduit, allowing God’s will, His words, to flow through us.
There is a deep joy in this, that oneness with Christ which transforms lives. Those moments come, and we are a part of something profound and holy. We don’t always manage it, but, oh, when we do, it truly is sweet.