• If you have a message outline you can share with your translator beforehand, this will be a great help.
• Interpreters hate, hate, hate paraphrasing Scripture. Your interpreter will have a high appreciation for the written Word and will want to say the verses correctly. For that reason it is best if you give your interpreter a list of the verses you will be referencing in each message, so they can mark them in their Bibles and be ready to read the verse in Spanish once you say it in English.
• The two tips so far could be summed up with the rule: avoid surprises. Let your translator know what the message is and whether you will be telling any stories or jokes. Don’t start quoting a poem or hymn in English without discussing prior to the session if that reference makes any sense in Cuban culture and whether the translator can handle the poetic language. The more the interpreter knows in advance, the more effective he will be in communicating your message.
• Please keep in mind that long sentences are difficult to translate, since word order and sentence structure are different in Spanish.
• Avoid using idioms. We have phrases in English that have a figurative meaning far different than the literal meaning. These phrases may “trip up” your translator. So, don’t say, “Without counseling this marriage is toast” or “I’m just giving you a rule of thumb.” But if you do (and it is hard not to since these phrases are part of our daily vocabulary) be quick to provide a restatement of your thought if your interpreter looks puzzled. “Without counseling this marriage will have serious problems” or “I’m just giving you a basic principle.”
• When you use a translator, calculate that your time is cut in half. If you have a one hour conference session, prepare 30 minutes of material in English, because the translation will take the other half of the time.
• Acoustics in Cuba can be horrible, especially when you are using microphones. If you move around too much, turn your back to the translator, or walk up the aisle in front of the translator, he or she may not be able to hear you correctly. You may notice your translator straining to see your mouth at all times, since this helps them to understand what is being said. Be perceptive of when your interpreter is struggling to hear you and position yourself in such a way that he is a half-step closer to the audience than you are, so he can see your face while you are speaking.
• At the same time, you will want to make eye contact with your audience and not your interpreter. I have noticed that Cuban audiences usually look at the conference speaker continually, even when the translator is speaking. So, don’t look over at the translator unless you sense that he or she needs you to repeat or rephrase what you said. As you hear the Spanish, make eye contact with those in the room — they will be focused on you.
• Having done both many times, I would say that translating is much more tiring that speaking. Be aware of this and try not to use your translator to help you with small talk in-between your sessions. He or she will need to rest, physically and mentally. Perhaps there is some other bilingual person at your event who can help you with your private conversations so the translator can use break time to actually take a break.
I hope this helps you as you prepare for your next missions trip. And, by the way, I do know that the correct word is “interpreter” when someone converts languages verbally and “translator” for those who do so with the written word. In Cuba, though, everyone uses “translator” for both and I have gotten into that habit as well. And in Spanish traductor actually rolls off the tongue better than intérprete.