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How to Avoid Getting Lost in Translation…

With an increasing amount of podcasts, internet campuses, video venues and various other content syndication efforts becoming available… there are no doubt things we need to be aware of if we want to increase the scope and effectiveness of any communication.

  • Are there common mistakes we’re blind to?
  • Are there “understood” graces that are extended?
  • What are Americans oblivious to?
  • What shortens the shelf life of our messages?
  • What can make our messages less exclusive to a geographic location and more inclusive to various expressions and locations?

I’ll admit, it’s hard enough filtering communication as not to alienate an individual–let alone a community region or even the globe. While the objective isn’t to communicate all things to all people, it is important to make an extra effort to remove unnecessary roadblocks at every touch point. An obvious first step is to try to bring clarity to people who share your language but maybe not your soil. But, it’s hard to self-edit (you can’t see the whole picture when you’re inside the frame).  That’s why an outsider’s perspective is so important. Especially when it’s frank and honest, the insight can be a game-changer. I asked my down under friend, Steve Fogg, to give us some thoughts to ponder about international audiences. He was gracious enough to reply.

7 Tips That Will Stop You Becoming Lost In Translation

A few years back there was a  great movie called Lost In Translation. The main character, Bob is an aging American movie star who is in Tokyo to shoot a whisky commercial. He doesn’t speak Japanese or understand the culture, everything is getting lost in the translation.

There is a funny scene in the movie that sums up his experience where Bob is on set of the whisky commercial. There are several exchanges with the director and a translator who inadequately translates the directors long and detailed instructions to Bob. Bob blows the shoot because the translator hasn’t translated it well. Yet again Bob has gotten lost in translation.

Churches face a similar issue. Especially American churches who have church online experiences, podcasts and other various syndicated distribution, and with smaller regional and local churches are now getting access to the technology (that was once only once available to the largest churches) the issue is becoming exacerbated. Many of these churches are simply broadcasting their existing content without thinking about who they are communicating with online.

Simply put, often what works in your ‘hood’, may not translate well to an international audience (did I that translate that well

.  It’s a cliché I know, but we now live in a global village and there are certain programming changes and speaking changes that you will need to make so you don’t get lost in translation talking to others in the village.

  1. Don’t drop in local announcements in the middle of your message. If you really have to do your announcements, make them up front and leave at least a 2 second pause before you start your message. This will give a chance for video and audio editors to start their recording without it sounding like something has been chopped something off mid-sentence (if you are pre-recording your online broadcast).
  2. Don’t be an insider. Sometimes we use insider terms for campaigns, ministries or locations you will need to ensure that I will understand what you are talking about because I’ve never heard of it. Essentially preface your comment with a bit more background than you usually would.
  3. Accents can be a barrier, but it can also sometimes help. Having an American accent can be a barrier when speaking – especially when if your audience is non-Christian, many will put up barriers because of the general perception of American preachers that you are all tele-evangelists that are only after their money. Seriously, that is a real perception out there. On the other hand in this creative video the accent didn’t matter.
  4. Don’t talk about the weather. I’m not talking about being polite. Most people will be experiencing something completely different to what the weather is like where you are. Don’t talk about the season unless you only want your message played in that season.
  5. Don’t use local slang. Dang, y’all, just saying, fall (we call it autumn) – we have absolutely no clue what you are talking about.
  6. Don’t reference local food outlets, stay generic. I don’t know what Chick-fil-a is but it sounds, well, disgusting (I do now after checking it out on the web, but it doesn’t translate well). Just tell me you were at your local chicken fast food store or burger outlet. Fast food culture here in Australia isn’t as dominant or widespread as it is in the US.
  7. Be yourself. I know it sounds contrary to what I’ve just been saying but you have to be you. It’s impossible to wear the straightjacket of pleasing everyone all of the time, you’ll just end up being a boring, lifeless presenter. Your own character needs to shine through in your unique communication style.

What are other tips do you have to avoid getting lost in translation? Leave a comment!