Friday, October 29, 2010

Public Speaking: Lost In Translation

When using translators, humor is tougher because timing and word play don't translate well. You might have to slow down considerably because of interpretation. Some speakers use half sentences to keep up the pace. This is very difficult and requires practice.

Speakers have been known to have fun with interpreters (of course, I would never do this). An unnamed speaker I know purposely mumbled to his interpreter to see what would happen. The interpreter mumbled back. Then the speaker mumbled again. It was hilarious.

Even when the audience speaks English, they may not be able to understand your accent. Avoid idioms and slang and check with local residents to see if you can be easily understood. You may have to adjust your normal rate of delivery and style.

Art Gliner, a longtime humor trainer, gave me this tip: He learns how to say "Happy New Year" in the different languages represented in his audience. That technique always gets a laugh and the further it is from New Years, the better it works. Art also tells me a word of welcome given in the native language works well too.

Difficulties may also arise in question and answer sessions if the presenter cannot understand the questioner. Try to speak with as many local residents as possible before the program so you can get a feel for their accent.

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