The Value of a Translator

Could you use a little help with your message?

The Value of a Translator

I had an incredible opportunity yesterday to speak on a subject that is very near and dear to my heart. I am currently on a business trip to Bangalore, India and I was given the opportunity to speak on a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. — Legacy Leadership.

There was only one problem. I don’t speak Kannada. There are more than 51 million individuals from the state of Karnataka who do speak it natively and I was asked to speak at a place where the entire day’s activities would be among a group of people with whom there were precious few who had even a limited understanding of English. Most had no understanding at all. That is a tall order for one American who struggles himself from time to time with the English language!

Help! I need a Translator

Fortunately, my host was completely aware of my linguistic shortcomings. And he provided a person who spoke English fluently but was a native Kannadigaru. And he would be my translator and interpreter.

One of the things that became very clear to me very early on in the development of my message was that I had to be crystal clear in my message and concise and succinct in developing any supporting information.

An unexpected problem

I was given twenty minutes. No problem. I can deliver a wealth of information in 20 minutes. Oh, wait a minute. I cannot go at the delivery speed and pace that I normally take. So, let’s cut that 20 minutes in half. Fine. I still have 10 minutes worth of good solid material. Oh, wait a minute again. Someone has to take everything that I say, and process it in their brain and then translate what I said into the local language. My 10 minutes just got cut in half again so that the translator can take my words and make them understandable to the crowd. Five minutes. I really just have five minutes worth of material to form my message.

You have to be able to boil it down

Then it hit me. I have to boil my message down to the truly important things that I want to communicate to them. And the message needs to be presented in a way that is most easily grasped by my audience. There was no time for fancy words, clichés, and funny stories. I needed to be crisp!

What is the Leadership Lesson from this experience?

Here is the Leadership Lesson. My message should always be that clean, clear and crisp. I should always try to create my message in such a way that I may need a translator to take it from my lips and pass it through his ears, circle around inside his brain and then exit his lips en route to the ears of the an audience that may not share my language or my understanding of the topic and message that I am seeking to deliver. In the end, thinking about the fact that I would need to “speak” through a translator caused me to craft my message completely differently than I ever have. And it gave me a clarity of message that I don’t always seem to be able to achieve.

What about you?

Do you need to consider simplifying your message from time to time? Do you need to boil it down to the true essentials of the message? If so, you might find that your audience and your followers understand you and your message like never before.

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I am the husband of a beautiful and wonderful woman. I am the father of two of the greatest kids on the planet. I am a father-in-law to a great young woman. And I am Papa to three very special grandchildren. In my spare time I am an active blogger and writer. And if there is any time left over, I work with small non-profit organizations and churches on the topics of change management, crisis intervention and leadership development.

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