Mi conferencia en español

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Last Friday I have joined the very small ranks of native English speakers from the U.S., whom have given a lecture in a language other then English.  And all the anxiety I experienced leading up to the event help me to understand why.  You do not realize how challenging it is to convey thoughts, especially complex ones, until you try to convert them into another language. Also, a lot of our vocabulary is culturally linked and have different meanings when translated. So, you have to figure out how to convey the ideas and do so in a manner the audience understands.

My Spanish colleagues were amazed that as an American I was even trying to do this.  Apparently the norm is to speak in English and have someone else translate what you are saying.  But, I have watched to many U.S. movies in Spain translated from English that had me saying “that is not what he said!”.  It is really interesting to see the translations for Will Smith’s wisecracks in “I Robot” translated into Spanish.  To put it succinctly, something gets lost in the translation.  No, I wanted to come across as me, as much as possible, in Spanish.

The standing room only crowd (over 120 people) greeted me warmly and was very patient with my pronunciation.  The audience of students, faculty and a few curious visitors (I am the first Black American to deliver a lecture at the Law School of UCM) laughed at the right moment and looked surprised when they were suppose to.  This let me know for the most part they understood what I was saying.  Things went better then I had any right to expect. I asked a few students a que se entienda mi español.  They told me that there where some words they could not understand, but felt that they understood about 60% of what I said.  I was elated.  This is the same level of understanding people have my lectures in the States.

Before closing this blog entry I want to acknowledge all the “foreign” born students at SU who have had to give presentations in my class.  I have a better appreciation of what you go through and the anxiety you feel when I have you stand up there in front of a group of people and try to translate your thoughts from Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian or Spanish into English.  And then take questions from the audience.  My head hurt when I was down and I needed a nap badly. So my heart goes out to those who stretch themselves to be not only understood, but to understand in a language other then their native one.

Published in: on April 21, 2010 at 12:48 am  Comments (1)  
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