True Life:: Translating Gone Wrong

Do you ever have those dreams that take you back to your high school hallway, or perhaps the classroom…a stage or maybe some other location that would have the potential to be the breeding ground for fear, public humiliation or embarrassment? Yeah, me too. Those are the worst. It is an ongoing mystery to me, just how real those dreams can feel. Such a mystery, that even while in the midst of dreaming, no amount of “I’m pretty sure this is a dream” soothes the panicky feeling that elevates your heart rate, and causes you to break out in a mild sweat.  But then magically, reality sets in aaaaand BOOM, you’re awake! “OH my gosh, I am in my own bed….that didn’t happen, thank you God….no one has to know about this”

Several weeks ago, I had that experience. The only difference, was that I was awake…and standing in front of a lot of people…translating for my friend…from Chinese to English. This was a big morning for me. I was only translating the “MC’ing” part of the morning, but nevertheless, my Chinese was going to be put to the test. I have no problem being in front of people and actually enjoy it. I enjoy interacting with a crowd, entertaining…what have you. However, translating….now THAT is a completely different game. There are different rules, techniques and even tricks. When translating, you are not thinking in your native tongue, you are thinking in the language that is being spoken and then translating it into the culture to whom you are speaking. It is an art. A messy, beautiful, amazing, interesting, confusing art. I like art. Well, actually I like music which is a form of art and I like cooking…which could technically be labeled as “culinary art” right? Anyway, the beauty of art  in my opinion, is connection. It is the connection of  ideas, thoughts, dreams, truth and emotions.

With my personality, I naturally like connecting things. I like connecting ideas, people, theories, truth…etc.  Little did I know, that cultivating this ability in a second language takes time and practice and even…embarrassment. I will spare you (and myself) of sharing every messy detail of what happened that morning. However, I will say, that there were definitely times of me looking at the base leader and his wife with eyes of “HELP!!” as I was trying to navigate through the spiderweb of language that I managed to get myself tangled in. There was even a time when I handed the Mic to the base leader to translate a sentence that I just completely mis-translated. When I took the Mic back, everything went into super slow motion “Annaaaaaa, what are youuuu doooinngg to yourselllllfff?” The inner dialogue spoke louder than my friend sharing and thus begins the “Ascent to embarrassment mountain” with the whole base slowly trailing behind me. At least that is how it felt for a solid 5 minutes or so.

After that morning, my pride felt totally crushed and my little heart…just crumpled into a little ball on the ground (I realize that sounds pretty dramatic…but, it kind of was…kind of).  Of course, anything that anyone would have to say to me afterwards, would invite a waterfall of tears.  I was in such a delicate place of vulnerability and embarrassment that I myself didn’t even know what would make any of “what just happened”…. better. I just wanted to walk away and pretend that the person up there wasn’t me and that THAT didn’t just happen and I’m “better than that”
Few things compare to the feeling of vulnerability. I mean, true vulnerability. The kind of vulnerability that when walking away from the conversation, your whole body just kind of goes numb and you don’t even know how to respond to whatever just happened. There is something to be said of vulnerability+ embarrassment.  I feel, at times that it is one in the same. At times, I feel that one cannot go on without the other. It’s almost as if sometimes, it’s good to feel embarrassed, it’s good to remember that you are “but dust”, it’s good to be in a place of remembering that “Hey, I’m not all that and a bag of chips” #early90sreference



I believe that perhaps with momentary exposure such as this, freedom and grace replace the embarrassment, insecurity and humiliation. I mean don’t get me wrong. I often remember that moment of standing in front of like 100 people feeling totally embarrassed. In fact, I remember it on almost a weekly basis.

However, the only difference between today and “that day” is that for some reason, I feel a little bit more free. I feel a little bit more comfortable in my own skin. I feel a little bit more humbled and reminded that it’s about Jesus and not about me. I feel a little bit nervous for the next time, but encouraged that it is in moments like this…moments of exposure and vulnerability, that I grow closer to Jesus…that I feel WELL AWARE of my need for Him and His grace.

So, to those of you learning a language and to those of you trying new things: I hope that you feel encouraged today that even in your most embarrassing, humiliating moments; moments that you feel a noticeable loss whether that be of pride, strength, ability…etc., that Jesus has something valuable and precious for us to gain. It may be embarrassment for a moment, but it is grace for a lifetime.

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One Reply to “True Life:: Translating Gone Wrong”

  1. I love you Anna, am proud of you and SO appreciate your honesty above. Thankful we get to be friends and serve Jesus together.

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