1 Oct 2017 – Hope Sunday
I was the Translator on duty in church this morning. I have served as a Chinese Translator for the past six months in the English service. Since there were only three of us in the oral translation team, we get lots of opportunities to serve and practice our skills.
My work involves simultaneous interpretation of a live church service from English to Chinese. The target audience listened to us through a headset.
This morning’s preacher is a guest Pastor from another country. As always with guest speakers, they do not usually provide their sermon scripts. I do have a skeletal outline of his sermon, which comprises the bible verses and the few pointers that he will be sharing.
Someone, G was shadowing me today to see how I conduct the live translation. Since there was no script to read and prepare, I prayed and committed my work to God in faith!
I no longer stress over how I would fare as compared to the first few times when I started. I trusted. I stayed focused. I paid attention to the speaker, and the words would flow. I’ve learned to anticipate changes and how to deal with unexpected situations.
I get ready to go live as the screen countdown to the last two minutes. 5-4-3-2-1 and GO! Once I get started, I totally immerse myself from the beginning till the end. No time for day dreaming and pauses. Every word must be translated and interpreted simultaneously.
It was a great message of faith and grace this morning. I enjoyed the learning as much as I enjoyed doing the live interpretation. I realized the messages stuck with me more when I was interpreting, than when I was sitting and listening as an audience. Guess it’s because I had listened to and repeated what was said as I interpret.
Let it Flow!
G, who was shadowing me sat quietly throughout the entire service. I saw that she took lots of notes, probably of the sermon. Halfway through service, I saw a man walked towards me and sat right in front of the row below. I noticed he sat there intentionally so he could hear me. Now, I’ve always sat on the top row in the circle seats deck in order to not cause too much distractions and disturbances to the rest who were listening to the speaker in English.
I often had people turned around and looked at me, thinking why I was talking during service. Maybe they didn’t know there’s a Translator in the house at every English service. I believed I speak rather loud sometimes.
Though I was interpreting, I had to express what I heard, understood, translate and interpret in a matter of seconds. If I mumble or speak in a monotonous and passive tone, I may lose the meaning of the message. I noticed that my emotions and expressions would build up, and flow along with the speaker.
My New Roving Fan?
At the end of the service, the man who was listening approach me. What he said to me was mind-blowing! This is what he said, “Will you be here next Sunday? I want to learn from you. Your command of Chinese is very good!”
Wow! Praise God and all glory to Him!
He went on to tell me that he sat there intentionally to listen to the Chinese translated version because he wanted to improve his Chinese.
What is Simultaneous Interpretation?
As I was packing up my translation set, I asked G how the session went for her? She paused for a moment. I could see the look of overwhelm on her face. Indeed, her first words were, “it’s not easy” and she did feel overwhelmed! She said the Pastor spoke very fast today, and I spoke very fast too.
True to all of what she said above and more! G asked me to share about my work, how I usually prepare and what to look out for.
What is in the work of a Simultaneous Interpreter? It is my pleasure to share of what I have learned, understood and practiced. Unlike live Interpreters, I don’t stand in the same space as the speaker, but in another area where I can see and hear him/her. In this environment, I positioned myself at an area where it is less crowded.
As the speaker spoke, I listened, process in my mind, translate it into the language required and speak it out simultaneously. As I was speaking the previous sentences, I’ve to listened to what the speaker was saying next, and repeat the process until the end. Sounds difficult? It’s not easy.
First, I had to understand what I heard, not only in the meaning, but in the context as well. Thereafter, using words to translate it correctly so not to lose the meaning. All the steps happened simultaneously. Mind you, the speaker don’t pause or pace since it is not a live interpretation.
How I Got Started?
I did not set out to become a translator, it happened purely by chance, I didn’t even know the church had such a service. One Sunday morning in church at the beginning of 2017, my team mate suddenly remarked that since my language skills was good, why don’t I become a Translator for the church? She promptly called another Translator, who happened to be around the corner, and you guess it, the deal was sealed. That person became my Mentor.
I sat in to listen to my Mentor for a few sessions before I got started. He got me to start by doing half a session, while he did the other half. I remembered feeling like a disaster after the first session. I think I interpreted about 60% of what’s spoken, I got blanked out a few times as I simply couldn’t process my thoughts at the speed that the speaker was going.
Thanks to my Mentor who was encouraging. He gave me feedback and some tips on how to do it better. I did much better the second time, and after the 3rd session, he saidI could now go live independently. Whew! What an honor.
Serve and Give First
Sometimes, I thought to myself if this happen by chance? One thing that my Mentor said, and I remember, “You need to be gifted by God!” (in order to do this)
For the past six months I was serving, I did more than ten sessions, some of guest speakers who did not provide a script nor bible verses. Everything was based on what he spoke live. Even with scripts, I’ve had speakers who don’t follow much of their scripts either. Over time and with practices, I’m improving at every session.
What have I learned in this Serving?
- I’ve become much more focused. Well, I have to.
- I’ve become a better listener.
- I process my thoughts a lot faster.
- I understood the bible a lot more – when given a script, usually a day before, I tend to read them at least five times, and this helps me understand the sharing from the bible in that session.
- I learned from speakers of different background – this helps me in my own training and speaking work.
- My language skills have improved – both English and Chinese.
- I acquired a new skills – simultaneous interpretation.
- I discovered a new passion – I really enjoy doing this.
- I uncovered a new talent? Forgive me if I sounded like I’m bragging.
- I connect closer with God!
- I read the bible more.
I’m happy serving God! As a volunteer, I don’t get any form of returns from the church. However, I’ve received abundance of blessings in my life, like the above listed. I’m happy to give of my time, and talent, a gift from God that I never knew I had. It was hidden until I was brought out to serve.
I met my Mentor on my way home, we had a short chat over the earlier session. As a parting word, he said it again, “you need to be gifted by God”.
Lest you think that is sufficient, I’ve put in tremendous hours to read the bible in another language, watch and studied other interpreters, created my personal list of translated terminologies and jargons, read my scripts (if available) many times over, practice and practice, research on guest speakers etc.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16
I’m happy to be a servant of God, and proud to use my gift from Him to bless others in His glory.
Today’s gratitude lesson:
I’m grateful for my God’s gifted talent and to my Mentor for teaching me.