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How to Work with a Translator

It’s common to need a translator when you’re evangelizing in other countries, but it isn’t always easy to work with a translator effectively. In this episode, we’ll talk about how you can better work with a translator so that you can clearly communicate the gospel no matter where you are in the world.


Evangelism Podcast Host (00:00):
It’s common to need a translator when you’re evangelizing in other countries, but it isn’t always easy to work with a translator effectively. In this episode, we’ll talk about how you can better work with a translator so that you can clearly communicate the gospel no matter where you are in the world.

Evangelism Podcast Announcer (00:27):
Welcome to the Evangelism Podcast with Dr. Daniel King, where Daniel interviews full-time evangelists, pastors, missionaries, and normal everyday Christians to discover how they share their faith, their powerful testimonies and amazing stories that will inspire you to reach people with the good news. And now here’s your host, missionary, and evangelist Daniel King.

Dr. Daniel King (00:51):
So next, let’s talk about how to work with a translator. So this is something that really comes with practice, but if you’ve never worked with a translator before it it, it takes a little bit of getting used to. But there’s some things, some ideas here that will help you to be effective at working with a translator. So the first idea I have is that when you’re working with a translator, I always try to sit down with him before the service begins and kind of go over an outline of what I’m going to say. I find that that solves a lot of problems if you can just sit down with him and say this is what I’m gonna share. If you’re using any unusual concepts or ideas, explain them to him so that in advance, he would already know kind of where you’re going with the sermon, show him what scripture you’re using, and often a translator will look at the scripture and then he’ll pull out his Bible and pull out the ribbon and put the ribbon into the portion of scripture.

And so that way it really helps you when you get up on the platform. You don’t have to you don’t have to waste three or four minutes, you know, three or $4,000 waiting, looking for the scripture. You can go, go right to it. And, and, and, and explain concepts. Like, like when I do a pastor’s conference, there’s an illustration I use about going and visiting a, a huge cave. And, and so I’ll share that. But often I find that the word cave is kind of the obscure word that it translated. Even if they know a lot of English, they may not know the word cave. And so beforehand, I’ll explain to ’em, do you know what a cave is? It’s just this big hole under the ground and usually translate. Oh, yeah, yeah. We have caves here in our country. And so he can think about the word that he would use in his language to, to do that.

When you work with a translator, use short sentences and pause in between each sentence. So you would share a sentence and then let them translate the sentence. So one of the mistakes a lot of beginning preachers make is like, they’ll, they’ll do a whole paragraph. Yeah. Like, they’ll forget that there’s a translator there. And so they’ll get up and they’ll be like you know, I’m so happy to be here today, and I flew in and da, da, da, da, da. And so like a minute later they’re like, oh, yeah, I have a translator. And then he like, has a whole paragraph or two paragraphs to share. And so you, you want to say one sentence, let him say it, but you, you don’t wanna break up your thought into two small pieces. So that one problem is sharing a whole paragraph of material.

The other problem is like doing it word by word. Like, this is such a great audience like that. That’s the other end of the spectrum. And the problem is that in some languages, they reverse the, the word order. So like in Spanish, do you speak Spanish? You speak some Spanish. So how would you say the the the, the, the very big man in Spanish Grand Re the, the big man. You know, and, and then, so in English, we say the man is big in Spanish, they’d say the, the big man, or, you know, so, so you have a language where if you’re translating in Spanish, if you don’t share the whole thought, sure. Then they, like, you can get into a thought. And if you don’t share the whole thought, the translator will be lost. Then he has to go back to fix it later.

So you guys share the whole thought. It’s great speaking with a translator because you can use that time to think about what your next sentence is. So with one ear, I’m kind of listening to my translator, making sure he’s keeping up with me. But in my head, I’m thinking about the next thing. Why? Because every word is important. That’s, that’s my thousand dollar minute there. I wanna use it wisely. So think give the translator time to translate. So when, when you’re speaking sometimes people get so excited and they’re a fast preacher, and so the translator’s speaking, and like, they’ll start stepping on the translator’s line. So the, the translator gets half his line out, and then they’ll start with their next line. And the translator has to stop what he’s doing and kinda listen to what the other person is doing.

And, and so you got to give him time to translate. Don’t step on him too much, right as he finishes his final thought, then you can start going into your next one. And if you get a good transl, like a good translator can really work with you. A good translator can go, go fast. But if you have someone who’s just a beginning translator, sometimes you have to, to really work with them. And, and so you that’s why you have to articulate your words really well. Use good pronunciation in your words, because people from different countries have different accents. Not everyone understands an American accent. And so use your words precisely with good pronunciation. And, and even like sometimes with a, a platform, it’s very difficult for the the translator to hear what you’re saying. And so you’re over here preaching to the crowd, and the translator is behind you.

He can’t really see your lips move. And if there’s not good monitors, he can’t even hear what you’re saying. And so sometimes you have to turn and face your translator and kind of speak. Sometimes, even if, if there’s not a good monitor situation, I’ll have my translator come and stand right next to me. And, and I’ll be like this. So he actually hears my voice. And, and I always tell my translator in advance. I say, whatever I do, you do. If I, if I start to shout, then you start to shout. If I go into a whisper like this, then I want you to whisper. If I get all excited and start jumping around, you get excited. If I’m giving a, a Bible illustration and talk about the, the man who was the leper and came to Jesus and knelt down before Jesus, if I kneel down, you kneel down whatever I do.

And so sometimes people have never translated before. You kinda have to train him in your expectation. And so it’s your job as the evangelist to get the evangelist, to get the translator to know what he’s supposed to be doing. And so I kind of, even in the middle of a sermon, I’m kind of training him and, and telling him what he’s supposed to be doing. Don’t use puns, idioms, colloquialisms or slangs. So I had someone come to Mexico and he had a great sermon. It’s about joy, j o y, Jesus, others, and you, J is for Jesus. You put ’em first place, oh is for others. You meet face to face. Why is for you? And whatever you do, put yourself third and spell joy. So that’s a great message, and he preaches this whole message. But the problem is that in Spanish, what’s the word for joy in Spanish?

Goso goso. And so G O Z O doesn’t spell Jesus. Ro he was dead. It’s completely different. So the entire point of his sermon didn’t even work because it was in a different language. And so you have to be very careful about what you say. We’ve got all kinds of colloquialisms here in America that translators maybe are not familiar with. Like, if they are really good translators, maybe they can get it. Otherwise, they’re just making stuff up and saying it to the crowd. You have no idea what they’re saying. And so, so here’s some ideas. The lights are on, but nobody is home. Well, what does that actually mean? Mm-Hmm. It means that someone is stupid. They don’t know what they’re doing. So just say that. Say he was, he was dumb. The devil’s dumb. Hmm. when pigs fly, what does that mean?

It means something’s impossible. Well say that. Go, go with the simple language to pig out. What does that mean? Well, if an evangel translator, he doesn’t necessarily know what it means to pig out. Maybe he’s never heard that before. Maybe you’re in a Muslim country and it’s offensive to talk about pigs. So why are you talking about picking out? Just say the man overate. Bring home the bacon. What does that mean? <Laugh>? You gotta bring home the bacon. We got all these pig metaphors. None of them work. Just tell him, you gotta the man, don’t, don’t, don’t tell a story and say, the man worked hard to bring home the bacon. You’ll just confuse the translator. He won’t know what you’re talking about. Just tell him he worked hard to make money to feed his family. So a whole list here of words that, and so that’s why you gotta practice your sermon. Think through your sermon. Think about how is my sermon going to impact the people that I’m speaking to?

How are they going to hear it? How are they going to receive it? How are they going to understand it? And so we’re coming from a very western mindset, a very affluent country. Let me give you an example. I got a friend who went to India to preach, and he was sharing an illustration with a group of pastors. And the illustration when he says, one time I was driving my car, I ran outta gas and I was stuck beside the road. I didn’t have any money. I didn’t have my credit cards, he says, but then I remembered that in the back of my wallet, there was a hundred dollars bill that I had hidden tucked into the back of my wallet. So I was able to pull out this a hundred dollars bill and go and pay for the gas and praise God, God provided.

And so the, the point of his story was that even when you’re in a difficult situation that God will provide, that’s a wonderful story. But he’s speaking to a group of pastors and not one of the pastors has a car. In fact, the richest of the pastors there has a bicycle. Yeah. Right? And rides the bicycle. And so when you say, I had a car and my car broke down, you’re thinking, man, that’s a bad day to have your car break down beside the road. And you know what the pastor might be thinking? Wow, he’s got a car. He is a rich guy. Yeah. The exact opposite of what you’re trying to communicate. Exactly. And then you’re in a country where, you know those villagers, you know, if they make a dollar a day, they’re doing pretty well. Yeah. And so for you to tell a story that I hit a hundred dollars bill in the back of my wallet, you know, that’s like I accidentally misplaced a third of a year’s wages.

Right? Completely different story that he was trying to communicate. And so there is a way that he could have communicated that story more effectively that would’ve been culturally relevant and specific to them. Yeah. Right? Cool. And really, I find that if you’re gonna share stories, great stories are the Bible stories. You know, the Bible stories are simple. Everyone has the Bible in their own language. You can share those simple Bible stories. And, and, and so there, there are stories that you can tell. But think about it before you just share a story. Say, how are people going to perceive this? What are they going to hear when I share this story? What are they going to think? How are people going to understand this? You know, in, in, in some country, you talk about being on the internet and you know, everyone has a cell phone.

You can, you could share an illustration about a cell phone, and probably most of the crowd would have a cell phone. There’s other countries where not many people would have cell phones. And so you wanna be careful about sharing that story about your cell phone. So it just depends stop using Christiane’s vocabulary. Yeah. So in the church, we have a lot of vocabulary that can only be understood in the church. My wife went and organized a crusade in Papa New Guinea. And it was, it was a Hindu crowd. And they thought that the name of the Christian God was hallelujah. Because that’s what the Christians were saying all the time. The Christians were always saying, hallelujah. And so they just thought, well, that must be the name of your God. You say it so much, you’re, you’re worshiping him. And so they thought, we serve the God. Hallelujah.

Hallelujah. Well, hallelujah. It’s a little bit of a Christian. It’s a good Christian term. But you, if you’re, you know, if you’re gonna say it, say hallelujah. That’s a word that means praise the Lord. Explain it. I heard a preacher one time, he talked about how the, the veil was torn. Well, before someone can understand what it means that the veil was torn, first of all, you have to understand what the tabernacle was, what the temple was, the holy of Holies. You gotta have a teaching on the temple furnishings. You gotta have all that symbolism. And then after you have all that understanding, then you can maybe understand what it means to say the veil was torn. Well, what was he trying to say? He, he was trying to say, Jesus has the victory. When Jesus died, he purchased the victory. And, and, and all the devil’s plans were destroyed.

The, the, the, the barrier between God and man was destroyed. And so he used what is Christian shorthand said that the veil has been torn. But you can’t understand that Christian shorthand unless you’ve had extensive teaching in that area. And so all the Christians in the audience, they’ll say, hallelujah. Praise the Lord. That’s good preaching. But as an evangelist, you’re not really there for the Christians in the crowd. You know, you might have a crowd that’s 30% Christian, 70% non-Christian. Well, your job as an evangelist is great to have the Christians there. You gotta have ’em. We want them. They’re the ones responsible for the follow up after the crusade, you know? So it’s great to have the Christians, but really, if you’re just preaching to the Christians, you’re not doing what an evangelist is supposed to do. Exactly. You’re supposed to communicate the, to the on believers who have no experience with Christianity, no background.

And so you gotta start very basic. When I hold up a Bible, I don’t tell them this is the Bible. What does the word Bible mean? It, the Bible just means book. And so I’ll hold up the Bible and I’ll say, this is God’s book. That’s pretty basic. If I mention Adam and Eve, I explain who Adam and Eve are. Adam and Eve, were the first man, the first woman that God ever created. If I mention the word sin, I explain what sin is. We have an idea in our culture what sin is. But you gotta realize, you, you, you know what sin is because you’ve been taught, you probably, maybe you grew up in a Christian home, you’ve kind of had that concept. But in, in some cultures, there’s less of an idea of sin, and there’s more of a, a shame based culture where they’re like, shame is a much better, bigger deal than an individual sin.

And, and, and so if I talk about sin, I explain what it is. Sin is when you disobey God’s command, God gave the first man and the first woman, Adam and Eve instructions, he says, do not lie. Do not steal. But yet they lied and they stole. And the Bible says that everyone has broken God’s commands. We have all lied. We have all stolen. We have all had hate in our heart towards our brother. These things are sin. And so once you define it, then you can use it for the rest of the message, and they’ll know what you’re talking about, but you gotta define it first. So be sensitive to cultural differences. Be cautious about telling jokes. There’s, there’s a lot of people that have made mistakes and how they tell jokes, humor is sometimes difficult.

School of Evangelism (16:45):
Are you called by God to be an evangelist? Do you wanna lead millions of people to Jesus? Do you desire to be trained in the practical side of building a ministry? Then check out the Daniel King School of Evangelism. Learn how to be an effective evangelist from Dr. Daniel King’s 20 plus years of experience. Daniel King has done crusades all over the world in over 70 nations, and has seen over 2 million people give their lives to Jesus. But it wasn’t easy. There was no crusade school. So Daniel traveled the world learning from and observing top evangelists, noticing how they successfully one souls for Christ. Now he wants to share decades of knowledge and experience with you. Topics of the Daniel King School of Evangelism include what is an evangelist, how to be a master soul winner, how to give an altar call, how to organize a crusade, how to raise money for your ministry, and much more. If you wanna be an evangelist, but don’t know where to start, the Daniel King School of Evangelism is for you. Enroll today in the School of Evangelism by going to Daniel King ministries.com/evangelism.

Dr. Daniel King (17:46):
Thanks so much for listening today. I

Daniel King – Evangelism Coach (17:48):
Am excited about telling people about Jesus, and I want to invite you to be a part of helping us to rescue people from Hell and take them with us to heaven. There’s two things you can do to help. First of all, can you go find the Evangelism podcast on Apple iTunes and leave us a positive review by giving a review, you will help other people find these valuable resources about sharing our faith. And second, would you become a financial partner with King Ministries? Every single dollar that people give us enables us to lead at least one person to Jesus. And so that means for only $1, you can help start a party in heaven. And so today, I want to invite you to become a monthly partner. You can start out for just a dollar, but if God puts it on your heart to do more, of course you can do more. But please go to king ministries.com and become a monthly partner with us today to help us to lead more people to Jesus. Thank you so much, and God bless you.

Evangelism Podcast Announcer (19:07):
For more information about how to share your faith, or to financially support our worldwide evangelistic outreaches, visit king ministries.com. Again, that’s king ministries.com.

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