I have often been asked to interpret sermons and public speaking from Spanish to English or English to Spanish. When I first started doing this as a missionary I would watch other people who did this well and noticed that there are a few things that are vital to good interpretation beyond the obvious which is a good grasp of both languages. There are several people that I have seen who do this well. One of the first that I noticed was Beverly Gonzalez who interpreted for Bruno Radi as he spoke at a large conference in Dallas, Texas. Another person that I have seen interpret well is Dwight Rich who is a missionary in Ecuador. What makes both of these exceptional interpreters is that they mirror the speaker in voice intonation, gestures and movement. The result is that the interpreter almost becomes invisible. For those who are listening, their attention is on the primary speaker and not on the interpreter. It is though they are hearing the primary speaker in their own language.
I was recently at an event where an Hispanic leader was speaking with an interpreter. Instead of being a mirror, the interpreter became a commentator. The speaker, for example, would say “we need a roof on our church”, the interpreter would say, “they have heavy rains in their country, you can see light through their roof and we can build a roof on every church in this country”. As the interpreter spoke, they would step into the pulpit and gesture with their arms so that the primary speaker had to step back behind them. It appeared that interpreter didn’t quite trust speaker to say the right thing. The interpreter then became the primary speaker and the Hispanic leader became a backdrop to the interpreter.
I have often thought that a good interpreter is a good analogy of a disciple of Jesus. It is easy for us to make extensive commentary on the purposes of God. It is also easy for us to put ourselves in the center so that the attention is on us instead of God. When the disciples asked Jesus who served as the best example of a disciple, Jesus pointed to John the Baptist (Matt. 11:11). John was a good disciple simply because he was a good interpreter. As John was baptizing, people wanted to focus on John, but John mirrored Jesus and pointed people to Jesus. Likewise, Paul stated “and we who with unveiled faces reflect the glory of God”. When this happens, the messenger becomes the message and the interpreter almost becomes invisible as the focus is on God and His mission.