Even in the United States, we sometimes feel by the audience reaction that we need an interpreter. We may think, “I am speaking English to an American audience. How can they look so clueless?” We’ve all been there.
However, speaking through an interpreter as I did a few weeks ago in Natal, Brazil, is an even more humbling experience. First of all, you are at the mercy of the person standing beside you. My interpreter was telling the audience in Portuguese what I said in English. I just hoped he transmitted the message that I intended. Knowing that there were a few bilingual people in the audience pretty much assured that he would be as accurate as possible since they would understand both of us!
Since many of us occasionally speak to global audiences, some lessons I have learned in delivering speeches through interpreters might be helpful to you as well.
All in The Family was the first sitcom to address the differences in the way men and women communicate. One famous line that only Archie Bunker could say was, “The reason you don’t understand me, Edith, is because I’m talking to you in English and you’re listening to me in dingbat.” In addressing an international audience, we want to make sure that we are speaking in English so that the audience members can listen and understand in their own language.
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at www.sboyd.com. To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.