Interpreter’s Manual


The world, according to one calculation, has been reduced from the size of a basketball to a mustard seed by modern means of travel since Jesus day. For this reason the ministry of the interpreter has become more important and plays a much larger role in world evangelism since modern travel makes the world more accessible to evangelists, pastors and missionaries.

The interpreter is the key to making the visiting preacher’s ministry effective in a foreign land. I am speaking from experience having had the privilege of preaching the gospel in 43 nations and islands in over more than 50 years and living in a foreign country at the time of this writing.

There are many ways the guest speaker can make the (not so easy as it may seem) task of the interpreter much easier, which we will discuss here. And then on the other hand, the interpreter can drag down and degrade the ministry of the guest speaker … or enhance it and give impact to the guest’s ministry. It is the intention of this manual to mention those things that help the interpreter to enhance the ministry of those he or she interprets for and thus have a great share in what is accomplished for the Kingdom of God through the guest speaker.

There is also a section this small manual directed to the host pastors of foreign guests and tips to the preacher on how to be effective using an interpreter. It was my original intention to help only interpreters in this writing but then saw that all three ministries are so closely connected in any endeavor that they become fused into one ministry in many ways. So I am adding some advice for all three to benefit by because their ministries effect each other.

I have used interpreters under all kinds of conditions from ideal to the worst that can be imagined. I have used interpreters under circumstances ranging from mass crusades in stadiums to private conversations. It is from this wealth of experience that I submit the following guidelines for both interpreter and foreign speakers, who together become a team, a unique dual ministry sharing both the privileges and responsibilities of ministering the gospel together in the global community we now live and evangelize in.

There is nothing more glorious to an evangelist, or the people he is preaching to, than to have an interpreter that flows with him in such a way the speaker can see the effect of his message being reflected in the faces of the hearers and the worship of the people aroused after his voice and thoughts have been transmitted through his interpreter.

These two ministries working together is so vital when ministering to lives that need to touch the Lord – hurting people waiting anxiously to be delivered. Here are two people with two different minds speaking to perhaps hundreds or thousands as I have many times. It is extremely urgent that the multitude listening have the least distractions as they listen to the message that can mean heaven or hell for them though eternity! The smoother the two speakers work together the fewer distractions there will be and the more the listener can better hear the truth that can save them, or the doctrine that can keep them saved. It seemed to me that there was a great void of good advice or information on this subject of the interpreting team and decided to tackle it in a format that could be placed in the hands of every interpreter and preacher heading abroad with good helpful advice. I am sure there are others more qualified than I am to do this job, but I thought I could do a small book condensed with vital information that could produce some spiritual results for anyone who reads and heeds .

Let me say, lastly, that this is written to help the experienced and the inexperienced preacher/interpreter team that we may have God’s anointing and blessings under the handicap of speaking to people of another language. This work is not exhaustive and the subject is much larger than this treatment but we have endeavored – with a prayer – to touch upon the more basic and helpful points that we may have more productive ministries on the foreign field. It is my wish that the bad experiences which I have had, as well as the good experiences, which inspired me to write these pages, will have its good effect on our efforts to evangelize the world for Christ in these very last days.

Bill Burkett


Interpreters can frustrate a visiting preacher to the point of tears when he gets the wrong one. On the other hand a good interpreter can make you and your ministry glorious and greater than it actually is!

The interpreter is the key to your ministry! You must have the right interpreter to achieve God’s best. An anointed preacher with a dead interpreter is one of the most disheartening experiences a missionary evangelist can possibly have!

I was speaking at a Bible Convention in Rio de Janeiro and arranged for my interpreter to work with me. His plane would arrive late for the start of the first afternoon session. I had an understanding with my substitute interpreter that I would switch interpreters as soon as Adimir would arrive. The meeting started with hundreds of pastors and evangelists eagerly awaiting the annual Bible School sessions to begin. My substitute was doing quite well but seemed to halt and we just did not have the flow that a speaker and his interpreter should have. A half hour went by and I was worried that Adimer would not make it. When Adimir finally appeared the interpreter I was using kindly called Adimer to take his place. As soon as Adimir started interpreting it was like electricity had struck the convention! The crowd of preachers before me came alive, their faces lit up and the crowd became ecstatic. The difference was dramatic! But the difference was not in me, although I was also quickened by Adimers anointing – the difference was definitely my interpreter! He had transformed my ministry from one of mediocrity to that of excellence. The importance of the right interpreter cannot be stressed too much! It can mean the difference between boredom and Pentecost, between just another meeting and revival.

A very urgent word of advice to pastors who are hosting guest speakers. Let your speaker pick his own interpreter if he has a preference. If not, we treat this later in the manual. When possible always let the speaker choose his own interpreter. There is a chemistry between people that sometimes only the speaker knows and feels.

INTERPRETERS, ATTENTION: INTERPRETING IS NOT A TRANSLATING! The very first lesson in the matter of interpreting is that interpreting is not to be confused with translating. We will only be dealing with the subject of interpreting for preachers just now, and then treat conversation and being a guide to a guest preacher a little later on.

There is a big difference between an interpreter and a translator. The translator is A literal translation word for word from one language into another of what the interpreter believes to be the closest rendering of the first language. But, an interpreter is not primarily concerned with putting into the native language a literal translation of the speakers words. This idea creates halting as the interpreter searches his mind for the best word closest to the meaning of each word. Forget it! Literacy is not the primary concern of the interpreter. The primary concern of the good interpreter (and I have had many) is the meaning of the foreign speaker’s sentences – not his words. As you listen, grab his meaning and give it as quickly as you can and in the same tone or voice inflection used by the guest speaker. In interpreting it is the flow of speech first and then the gist of what has been said that makes listening easier and the message more effective.

A literal word for word translation is not the primary objective of interpreting. Trying to translate a speaker may spoil the flow of an anointed speaker if the interpreter is halting and stammering for the exact translation.

BUT, this does not mean that we drop the idea of translating altogether. We will also see later when translating is very important – but not in the pulpit. There is a balance between translating and interpreting when putting a message into the language of your people as an interpreter.

Exceptions To Not Being Literal. It is better to not concentrate so much on the exact wording of the speaker but rather on the gist of what he is saying and then concentrate secondly on putting that phrase in the best language available in your native language that your brain is capable of doing at the moment. This is where the Holy Spirit works and quickens the mind of the interpreter.

In translation work exactness is more important than in the interpretation of a speaker. A good translator is not always or necessarily a good interpreter. When interpreting a speaker, you can always add what you may have missed in a previous statement of the speaker and include the missing thought in what you interpret in a later sentence. More important than absolute accuracy when interpreting a preacher is that you set up a flow with the speaker and be as little hindrance as possible in that continuity which the speaker creates. Remember, if he is having to wait for you to academically create an exact translation of every word he has spoken, it is impossible for him to control the flow of thought.

Theme words are important. Sometimes the speaker may be speaking on a theme that has a very important key word in it which he will repeat often. In this case it is the responsibility to mention this key word to the interpreter before the message. I have sometimes been very happy I did this when I discovered that the language I was speaking to did not even have that particular word in it!

Picking Up On The Speakers Theme. If you discover a very special theme the speaker is repeating, be sure to use the strongest term in your language and then use that same word of phrase each time in the same way the speaker is using it.

Translating takes knowledge and concentration. Interpreting takes the anointing and a skill to translate the meaning.

Pastor Mariano of Brasilia, Brazil, an outstanding interpreter! told me one day in a discussion we were having about the secret skill to interpret well is to avoid trying to be absolutely literal when translating for a speaker. You must be able to hear what he says and express the meaning immediately in your own words. In a way the interpreter has his own anointing and what he is really doing is he is preaching his own message from your ideas – he is preaching your message in his own way. A good interpreter will stay very close to what you’re saying and actually be literal when interpreting your message at times. But for the sake of understanding what we are trying to teach the interpreter, let us say you are preaching the message but you are getting your message from the guest speaker. Going along with his idea I must add here that if there is only one mike, don’t worry about sharing it – the interpreter must hold the mike and forget the guest speaker in that case. The people attending are listening to the interpreter and not the guest speaker!

Learn to relax the mind. Listen to the whole sentence of the preacher and then translate what was spoken into words in your own language that says the same thing – although the words may be different. Remember, you are interpreting what the preacher is saying, and not translating him. Practice this method and if you’ve been having trouble being quick with your response it is probably because you have been trying to translate what the speaker said instead of interpreting what he is saying. Usually when an interpreter is well acquainted with the language he is interpreting but stammers and delays at response it is because he is concentrating on each word individually rather than on simply listening to the entire sentence and then interpreting that sentence in his own language. Following are two examples of how the interpreter may see and interpret sentences without changing the actual meaning. We have also put the interpreters grammar into his sentence so the speakers reading this can appreciate what the interpreter has to do with the English language in his mind to make it comprehendible in his own language.

Example No. 1.

Speaker: I. Paul the apostle gives us many wonderful insights into the resurrection of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15.

Interpreter: In 1 Corinthians 15 the apostle Paul gives us mighty revelations concerning the power of God in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (You haven’t taken anything away from what the preacher said and yet probably said it in your language so that it was easier to say for you and better comprehended by the hearers.)

Example No. 2.

Speaker: As the two disciples ran to Jesus’ tomb, one stopped outside, but Peter ran into the tomb!

Interpreter: As Peter and the other disciple approached the tomb of Jesus running, the one disciple stopped outside but Peter ran into the tomb where Jesus was laid! (It is perfectly alright to add an adjective or verb or two to what the speaker said so long as you do not change the meaning of what he said or leave any point of meaning out – because the next sentence he makes may refer to something he said in the previous sentence. If this happens and you realize now that you missed the connecting thought and you just add what you might have left out previously – and connect them in your own words.) If you add a word or two – not too many – that is called garnishing and can help make the guest’s message richer. But be careful and do not carry that too far – it could get you in trouble if he suddenly reverses his meaning.

Many good interpreters reading this will be saying, “I have often done this.”

But, an interpreter must not get carried away with this. I had an interpreter in Brazil once that took what I said and preached an entirely different message. I wondered why there was no response to my message at points where there should have been. After the meeting a sister that spoke fluent English told me that he preached an altogether different message than I had preached. I went to him and asked him why he did this and he (being a resident missionary there) said, “Well, I understand these people and know better than you what needs to be preached.” This man would never interpret for me again. I found that he had a reputation of being proud and had done it to almost everyone he interpreted for. Disgraceful! This kind of gross arrogance disqualifies anyone including nationals from being an interpreter.

The Point Is Made. The mind of the interpreter must not be set on making precise word for word translation of what the speaker is saying but hear the complete statement and then interpret it as quickly as possibly from your under-standing of what was said making what he said available to the hearer.

Another way to better understand interpretation as against translating is in the gifts of tongues and the interpretation of the tongue. Sometimes the interpretation is much longer than the message in tongues that it causes some to wonder if the interpretation was connected to the message in tongues. But an interpretation can be much longer than the original message spoken because interpretation is an explanation of what was said, not a word for word translation. It is called by the apostle the gift of interpretation and not the gift of translation.

Repeating The Point Again! The mind of the interpreter must be relaxed and able to hear the best meaning in his own language and then “interpret” what the foreign language said and above all keep an anointing and interpret with power in your voice!


Flowing Together In The Streams Of The Anointing

Anointed content is in the hands of the preacher. Anointed flow is in the hands of the interpreter.

When you have a good preacher with ready and rapid words then content of the message is with him, but the flow of the message is entirely in the hands of the interpreter. It is the interpreter that controls the message in a very great sense.

These are the two most important qualities of working together as preacher and interpreter. This matter of the “flowing together” is the key to ministering effectively to the people. May we call it the anointed flow.

Without that flow to the message, vital concentration is broken and the attention of the listeners goes from what the preacher is saying to the lack of skill or difficulty the interpreter seems to have. The attention of the people should be entirely upon what the preacher is saying and not upon some condition or problem with the interpreting.

The Goal Of A Good Interpreter So you may be a very good translator and have a good vocabulary in your second language, but to become the best interpreter, make you goal to flow with the speaker, until the speaker forgets he is even preaching through an interpreter. This should be the goal of every interpreter who is perfecting his skills and considers interpreting a God given ministry.

BEING PUNCTUAL: When we make a schedule or appointment and see that we can’t make it, call the guest or the church by phone and notify him that your going to be late and what time you will arrive. If you are some minutes late then it is usually not a problem – but if its more than minutes phone to your guest speaker and tell him that your running late and what time you will arrive. It is always best to have a point of contact such as the phone at the guest speakers hotel or the church office so each of you have a place to call into and make contact.

Try to do nothing that will frustrate a guest speaker especially prior to the message. Americans and British – all people of the western cultures for the most part, tend to be very plan oriented and being punctual and being there when he wants you or needs you is very important. Keep him happy and it adds that much more to having a good message with good results.

Conclusion to part I before going to Part II:

The Simple Objective Of Interpreting. I tell my interpreters to not worry about being exact or think they have to be precise with every word. The important thing is that the spirit of what I am saying and the intended meaning is being clearly conveyed. The interpreter has plenty of opportunity to garnish or improve on what his message along the way to improve the meaning as he himself (the interpreter) better understands … and without changing what the speaker is saying.


One microphone – If there is only one microphone in some circumstances in small churches where the electronic equipment is not as perfect as it could be, then the interpreter should have the microphone directly in front of him. The speaker should only have the tonal qualities and variations of his voice heard by the interpreter because his voice does add to the meaning and to the effect of the message. The tone of his voice combined with the flow of language, which they understand, is the combination that makes for powerful results and which the Holy Spirit can use most effectively.

The interpreter should abide by the following rules if he wants to be a good servant of the speaker and do him his finest service;

A) TONE: Try and use the same tonal variations and voice inflections as the speaker.

B) VOLUME: Try and use the same volume – highs, lows, loud, quietly as the speaker.

C) IMITATE: Imitate any motions the speaker makes up to the point where you are comfortable. Interpreters should never take the stance of a statue, standing frozen with hands clasped in front of him staring up to the ceiling while the preacher is quite active. The interpreter should be making eye contact with the people in the congregation the same as the preacher. Eye contact is an essential part of communication – never stare upward or away from the people your speaking to. Your eyes should be upon the person your sending your voice to.

D) BE FAST – Rapid follow through by the interpreter is also a very important quality that he should work on. If there are long pauses between what the speaker says and when the interpreter begins to speak, you are losing continuity and again the effect of the message is lessened by these pauses. Try and not allow pauses between the end of the speakers sentence and your own. Train your mind to hear his sentence and form the whole sentence in your mind, rather than each word.

E) NEVER! NEVER! NEVER! NEVER! try and improve on a speakers message by changing meaning or not faithfully interpreting something because you personally disagree. With this I might add, that if there comes one in among you and you graciously give him the privilege of speaking and while preaching he brings false teaching, then the interpreter has a right to reject what he is saying, but he must do the ethical thing and tell him “we do not teach this doctrine in this church,” and then either tell him to go on with what he is saying or tell him to sit down if it is serious, or call upon the pastor to make a decision.

An interpreter should never take it upon himself to intentionally change a mans message, unless he tells him. That is the ethical way to handle interpreting something that you know to be sensitive or wrong to the people he is speaking to. An American visiting Portugal soon became known as a “joker” in the pulpit. When he arrived in Lisbon the pastor (who was also his interpreter) told him before the meeting to please not tell any jokes in the pulpit while ministering there. But the American did not take heed and proceeded to tell a joke. But the pastor interpreter just went on preaching on the message in Portuguese but did not tell the joke. The Portuguese pastor was saying (while the American thought he was interpreting the joke), “Now I told this brother … before the meeting … not to tell any jokes … but he is telling a joke anyway … so when I tell you to laugh, … laugh a little to make him happy to know you understand the punch line. When the man was finished Jose told them to laugh and they all chuckled a little and the speaker was gloating because did such a good job. The American thought he had really pulled one over on the pastor interpreting for him, but later the pastor told the American what he did and it turned out that it was the American that was fooled. This is one of those rare exceptions where an interpreter violated the rules of interpreting but his guest had attempted to violate the authority of the pastor. The interpreter was in perfect order.

The Authority Of The Interpreter In Special Cases

A good interpreter can make something said in the first language even stronger in his own language. There is a right time to do this, but interpreters must be cautioned that they are never to take away from the meaning of what the speaker is saying or control what he is saying by arbitrarily interpreting the speaker to be saying what he (the interpreter) wants him to say. That is deception and a serious violation of Christian ethics, and especially if that speaker is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

On one occasion an interpreter who was miffed at me for not agreeing with him on a decision I made in travel plans interpreted a prophecy to me incorrectly using the utterance as a means of rebuking me. But soon after he finished interpreting the prophecy to me, another brother led of the Holy Spirit, came to me and told me the correct interpretation. When I discover such a Judas spirit in an interpreter, it takes me very little time to get rid of him! To twist a word of prophecy is a sign of the lowest kind of character.

If an interpreter cannot, for any reason, conscientiously interpret a guest speaker then let him decline from interpreting – but NEVER try to twist and distort the speakers words while he is preaching to change the meaning. It is better to turn to the speaker and tell him you cannot interpret what you have said because it is against my Christian conscience.

On one occasion in Poland a visiting American started teaching some very alarming doctrine that was contrary to the Scripture and the teaching of the church he was speaking to. The pastor, who was interpreting him, simply turned to him and said, “Brother your are finished, please sit down.” The American insisted he was not finished but the Polish brother insisted he was, and as it turned out, he was finished and he did sit down! This honest approach is not always pleasant but better than exposing the church to undesirable doctrine and trying to change what the man said. But this action should only be taken under the most serious circumstances.

And what shall the preacher do if he is told such a thing? First, let us say that it is ethical folly to teach on some peculiar doctrine in a church with traditional teaching. it is wise to preach on those many truths where there is harmony without trying to push off some strange teaching on people of a different culture. Never try to come in to a church like a bull in a china shop to set everybody straight and teach things that may be more cultural than Christian, more socially accepted than Scripturally accurate. If you have a spiritual bone to pick with a church, the ethical thing is to go to the pastor and discuss your doctrine alone with him first.

F) COACHING – Never pay attention to or allow coaching from the people in the crowd or behind you. One of the worst kinds of distractions is to have one or two people coaching the interpreter while your trying to preach. If the interpreter has problems finding a word then he turns to his guest preacher and says, “Please repeat,” or whatever his guest has arranged with him. But never allow coaching unless it is under special circumstances and it is agreed upon by the guest preacher. He is the one who is most effected by these disorders and he is the one that should decide how it should be handled.

I instruct my interpreters that if they do not hear what I said or do not understand what I said to turn toward me in silence. By that I know I have to repeat what I said distinctly or use another word more common.

G) PRIVACY – Interpreters have a very special closeness to their guest speakers and especially if they travel with them on long tours. I have had to eat, sleep and make all conversation with my interpreter with me. In this case the interpreter is allowed to see the private ways and habits of the guest speaker. It is poor ethics to observe a guest and then share with others what you observed him do when you were traveling privately with him. We are all entitled to privacy. It is good manners for an interpreter to never repeat the private ways of a guest you are traveling with. On one occasion an interpreter who was traveling with me watched me carefully when I was eating then repeated to others what I had eaten. As an interpreter you are taken into confidence and you should not betray that confidence by making public the private life of your guest.


1. FAMILIARIZE – When possible sit down with your interpreter and discuss with him your message. The following items are important;

2. THEME – Mention a single worded theme to your interpreter.

3. TEXT – The text or scripture passages that you will be using.

4. POINTS – Key words that may not be common to the interpreter and especially if your interpreter is not acquainted with Biblical terminology.

5. NEVER, NEVER attempt to recite poems! – I saw an Englishman do this to John Tolwinski in Warsaw, Poland Polish interpreter in Warsaw and the interpreters mind almost snapped. It’s impossible to translate or interpret a poem. John looked at me with the most pitiful look of helplessness.

6. PRAY with your interpreter before the meeting when this is possible. Prayer has a way of bonding our spirits.

7. GRAMMAR – IF ITS YOUR FIRST TIME USING AN INTERPRETER; It is very important to know that the grammar sentence structure of some languages like Spanish and Portuguese is reversed from that of the English language. For this reason it is very important to speak in complete short sentences for the sake of your interpreter understanding you clearly. For instance, in English we say, “He went to the kitchen.” In most other languages it reads, “To the kitchen he went.” The subject precedes the verb. When the sentences are longer and more complex it becomes very important to speak complete phrases so the interpreter knows where your going.

8. DIRECTION – When you want your interpreter to catch what your saying that may be very important to the meaning of your message turn toward him when you speak. I have very good interpreters in Brazil but when we both become anointed and excited we are liable to both light out in different directions preaching. Suddenly we get so far apart from each other that he loses contact with my voice. If your interpreter can see your mouth when you speak it helps him very much and especially if he is new at interpreting.

This is usually one of the greatest failures of the speaker, to turn away from his interpreter and go off preaching without thinking about his interpreter.


Interpreters are not slaves, they are “hired servants.”

In some countries interpreters are not appreciated for the service they render. Pastors who use interpreters and send them off with, “They are doing it for the Lord,” should apply that same philosophy to their own labors. Pastors should think of the ministry of the interpreter as being vital to the church. James teaches us a principle that certainly applies here; If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well: James 2:8.

One well known and rich American evangelist held a large crusade in South America and wore out two interpreters using them night and day. Neither of them had a work income but were considered the best interpreters in the country. When the crusade was over the evangelists Business manager took the two interpreters aside and said, “Now, we are not paying you anything because just the privilege of this great evangelist having his words pass through you is pay enough.” One of those two young men, a pastor’s son in that country, is backslided today. The other young man who interprets for me, told me I would never interpret for him again because I only interpret for brothers in the Lord.”

1. Interpreters usually have spent years studying and learning the language. This has meant sacrifice and usually expense to them.

2. Interpreters make the ministry of good brethren from outside the country available to the church. Without the interpreter many brethren and ministries would not be available to the church.

3. Interpreters are usually more than just a voice for the preacher when he is preaching. He is an emissary for the pastor and accompanies the guest in his travels and business needs, runs errands for him and is a vital link between the guest preacher and the strange world around him that he could not otherwise understand.

4. The interpreter is also valuable as a translator and a liaison between the pastor and his church and the foreign preacher when they are separated by oceans.

5. Actually the interpreter works twice as hard mentally as the guest preacher or his pastor. They are thinking and speaking in one language but the interpreter is hearing in two languages; thinking in two languages and speaking in two languages! On one occasion I was asked to hold a conference with brethren in Czechoslovakia concerning the doctrine of Jesus Only teaching. We started at 9:00 a.m. with about 30 pastors jammed into a small room in the village of Zhukov. My interpreter was intensely involved in this debate because he was actually Polish but did not want to make an incorrect interpretation. In this case he was actually translating because much of the exchange between us was based on exact rendering of words in Scripture. My interpreter was thinking in Polish; listening in both Czech and English and speaking in Czech and English – all the while thinking in Polish. Interpreting is a hard job and is worthy of good hire!

The Biblical Work Ethic – The whole principle of the Scripture regarding the work ethic is that the man who works should be rewarded with pay. James has some strong words for people who are rich or well off and mistreat the poor. Scripture also makes it a plain fact that the man who is lazy and does not work should not be paid! But interpreting is hard work and should be rewarded, and especially if interpreting is one of his livelihoods.

Pastors inviting a foreign speaker should make the cost of the interpreter, his travel expense and pay for his labors a part of the cost of having a foreign speaker. I have had interpreters tell me that they will not make themselves available again to some pastors because they give them no consideration even when they know their family is in poverty.

INTERPRETING IS HARD WORK. It is a job that should be taken seriously by the interpreter. Under no circumstances should interpreters mix their family or social life with their “job”. There is no one that has the privilege of taking their family with them to the factory or to the office where they are employed. If you are working in the capacity of an interpreter and you are to be interpreting for a designated guest for a designated duration of time, then that guest should have all of your attention. Interpreting takes much concentration and means you are a host to your guest. It is no place or time to include your family or other friends or take on other responsibilities while filling the job of an interpreter. Reasons are as follows:

1) The interpreter and the guest speaker are considered by the host as being the only two who will have to be provided for as far as hotel provisions, food and transportation. If the interpreter brings his family along, this adds a burden to the host church which is not ethical even if the interpreter calls and gets the permission of the host. It is the guest preacher the interpreter needs to get permission from if he is has plans that will take him away from his guest. Perfectly good interpreters have these oversights in their ministry that is not responsible thinking.

2) It imposes a great distraction for the guest speaker. The guest speaker is much more comfortable when he has to work with one solitary person. But if he has to have the family following the interpreter everywhere he goes, then this can bring problems in the area of transportation, eating and the most important thing is, that every time you add a member to a traveling party, you half the time it takes to carry out a mission. In other words, if there are two people traveling together, they can work very efficiently and keep their appointments without any problems, but when you add a third person you add another 30 minutes to everything you do and all plans and schedules you make. When you add the fourth person and the fifth person, it can become very frustrating to the guest speaker to have to accommodate the tag-along members or friends who are a part of the interpreters “party”. Interpreters should be solitary workers and be devoted entirely to the voice and mind of their guest speaker. Do not take your family. Do not bring added friends with you. This is a distraction to the speaker and adds inconvenience to the guest and the host as well as consumes unnecessary time and makes the travel and schedule difficult to stay with.


When you send a car or transportation to pick up your host at a hotel or home wherever he is staying, and it is usually a short distance from one part of a city to another, or to a city nearby or within a days travel – always send a driver alone. Many times I have been picked up at a hotel and there were so many riders that had come along with the driver that there was not room in the car. Be thoughtful of your guest speaker and think of him and provide as convenient and comfortable accommodations for your speaker as possible so that he can be as tranquil and at peace in his mind as possible. He will be much more effective in his speaking when he is able to concentrate on his thoughts, his inner inspirations, without having to be jammed into a car or van with “riders” who just came along to meet the guest and speeded at break-neck speeds by irresponsible drivers trying to show off their driving skills by making three lanes out of two. Host pastors should always think of the comfort of the guest rather than try to make an impression on him with so many unnecessary and ceremonial deeds. The one thing that should be on the mind of the host is to provide for the guest a special care that will bring him to the pulpit refreshed and feeling ready in his spirit to minister effectively to the church.


Drivers should be moderate in their driving even if you are late, do not speed through heavy traffic. It is not that your host doesn’t like a little excitement, but again you are destroying the tranquility and the peace of his mind. Drive to accommodate the feelings of your host. If necessary, ask him if the speed pleases him and ask him how he would like you to drive, fast or slow and give him that choice.

When the driver is in the car alone he can drive like a maniac all he wants to, because the only fatality will be one maniac (and perhaps some victims he takes with him), but when you have guests riding in the car with you then their lives and their well being, their peace of mind and their safety should be your first consideration. Consult them and be sure that they are comfortable with your driving habits. Its none of my business how a man drives until I get in the car with him. Then it is my business! I have asked more than one driver to pull over so I could have a talk with him. We are christians, not cowboys riding steel horses!

The Laborer Is Worthy Of His Hire

PAY – Pay your interpreters well! On some fields (developed countries in Europe) the churches usually pay the interpreters themselves. But in undeveloped countries such as Africa or India they get nothing unless you pay them. If you find a good interpreter, pay him well!

IMPORTANT! When you have an interpreter that pleases you, be very sure to pay him generously. Not foolishly, but according to the pay scale of that country and pay them a great amount others will not be able to pay after you. Too much money is not good for the character of especially the very poor. I have had cases where the interpreter did not know what to do with the money and after three days he came to me privately with a book in his hand whispering to me. “What shall I do with this?” he said, and opened the book and there was the fifty dollar bill I had given him for several days of very faithful interpreting. I looked in amazement at the bill pressed neatly in the book. I told him what to do with it! “First, you pay your tithe to the Lord from that.” He smiled and shook his head yes. Then I said, “Buy food and clothes for you and your family with the rest.” He smiled broadly and said, “All of this is for me? I assured him it was.

Be careful doling out money and always do it in private! Never hand anyone money with others present to see it. It can cause jealousy and strife. When I pay anyone who labors for the Lord a wage, which is scriptural, I tell them very seriously not to tell anyone I gave them anything or how much.

This will spoil them and make them feel independent of their pastor and church and could hurt the order of that church. If you want your interpreter to be with you and to be available when you need him, pay him well and take care of his expenses. The interpreter makes your ministry possibly.

Another thing you must take into consideration is the travel expenses of your interpreter…coming to you, and returning to his home (if he is from another area), and what it will cost for expenses while he is traveling.

these are things that should be included in your budget when you’re figuring your expenses for the missionary journey. When you return to that field you can contact him and he will help announce your coming and arrange your meetings.

But in the cases where the churches are sizeable and support their pastor full time then it should be the responsibility of that church to provide for the travel and hire of the interpreter(s).

The Qualities That Help Us Choose An Interpreter.

A good interpreter, of course, will have a good command of two languages – that’s the first quality. If you are looking for what is best in an interpreter, those who have the native tongue of the people your preaching to and has mastered the language of the foreign preacher will be one of the first things to look for. Add the anointing to this interpreter and you will usually have the best. What is ideal is when the interpreter has both languages as native tongues. For example, in Brazil there are American missionaries who have lived most of their lives in Brazil and speak both English and Portuguese with equal skill.

It is better to have an interpreter from the country your preaching in with lesser skill in your language than to have an interpreter that is your nationality and has learned the language of the country you speaking in.


It is in the interest and spiritual benefit of the host pastor to assume his part of the responsibility of providing interpreters. If you have invited a foreign preacher to preach at your church or other church function such as a conference of crusade, then it is you and your church that will benefit from that preachers ministry. As the one who will benefit, it is only ethical that you as a pastor and church should assume the cost of securing a good interpreter. This should be the first thing to take care of as soon as a foreign preacher has confirmed his meeting with you. If you can afford to bring in an interpreter, especially one that is known and works well with your invited guest, forget the cost of bringing him to the meeting and do it! Having the guest preacher’s choice of an interpreter is vital to the positive spiritual outcome of the meeting.

If your church cannot bear the financial burden of paying the travel and pay of an interpreter then talk it over with your guest speaker, especially if you know he has a choice of interpreter, he may want to help in that expense or advise you to use local interpreters.

The thoughtful pastor who wants the very best spiritual results in a meeting he is planning will consult his speaker as to his preference of interpreter. It is not ethical to arbitrarily appoint an interpreter that his guest speaker knows is not going to make his ministry as effective as he knows it could be. The speaker should have something to say as far as: (a) What kind of interpreter he wants and prefers. (b) The right to choose from interpreters he may know of personally.

The host pastor must remember that he appoints his own close associates in the church whom he works closely with and that same working arrangement should be given to the guest speaker regarding his interpreter. The feeling of well being of the guest preacher is a great factor in the effectiveness of his ministry.

Let Your Guest Speaker Try several Interpreters

Another courtesy you can extend to you guest speaker is to let him try using a couple of your available interpreters and then allow him to use the interpreter he works with best.

Interpreters Are Also Traveling Companions

If your guest is going to be traveling or needing an interpreter through several days, he may want to use two or more different interpreters and then choose which one he wants to travel with him.

For someone else to control the choice of the interpreter or force a speaker to accept an interpreter other than he requested, is an ethical violation of your guest speaker. If a nationally known evangelist holds a crusade in your capitol city, you can be very sure that he or his crusade managers will choose his interpreters and not someone else. This would especially apply when your guest speaker has a definite preference and knows interpreters he prefers and has been interpreting with effectively.

Should Wisdom Or Knowledge Choose The Interpreter?

The difference between wisdom and knowledge can be very well illustrated by the fact that a pastor may say “We have a good interpreter in the church and why should we pay for an interpreter from outside when we have one right here”?

Knowledge is good but Wisdom is better. It is no reflection on the church interpreter when the guest preacher prefers an interpreter other than the church interpreter. Wisdom and not knowledge alone should dictate in this regard. Sometimes the wisdom of your guest would produce better results than the knowledge of the local pastor who may be less experienced in the use of interpreters.

Knowledge thinks interpreting in simple terms. It says, “An interpreter is simply one who translates one language into another.” But wisdom (usually achieved by experience) thinks of achieving the highest results possible for that church. Here are three rules worth paying attention to when possible;

1. When possible always have a masculine voice interpreting a masculine voice, and a feminine voice to interpret a feminine voice. The voices are different and carry different tones of meaning. Inflections of the voice and tonal variations are different in men than women. A woman interpreting a man may sometimes be necessary but when it is not, then the better rule is to forget “the easy way out” and do the thing wisdom dictates.

The masculine voice is affirmative, aggressive and commanding. When a man speaks in his original language and a woman interprets it, it loses the masculine tone of authority and thus lessens the impact of the masculine voice and ultimately the effect of the message. A man usually feels more comfortable with a man. The same genders usually relate to one another better. There are exceptions where preachers have preferred a sister to interpret because their spirits were more in harmony. We realize that many times these points of wisdom are not possible and therefore we do the best with what God provides and thank him for the results we have.

2. A preacher should have a preacher to interpret for him when possible. Of course, all of these points are determined by circumstances. I have twice used atheist Communists to interpret me in the former Soviet Union …and with good results! It was all I had under those peculiar circumstances.

3. There should be doctrinal harmony between the interpreter and the speaker when possible. If there is a contempt for the other by either the speaker of the interpreter, the speaker has no confidence that his words are being related to the congregation as he is intending.

A young American Charismatic preacher visiting Ukraine looked with disgust on his older interpreter. He ignored him after the message and made no offer to reward him for making his ministry available to the church. My responsibility to be kind and compensate my interpreter for his labors should have priority over my carnal preferences. I many times will have interpreters who do not share my persuasions doctrinally, but if I see they are consciously interpreting me, I will see to it the laborer gets his hire.

At a very serious moment in my message while addressing a conference in a capitol city my interpreter (with strong Charismatic leanings) burst into laughter about something I was teaching from Scripture that conflicted with what he (or his wife) believed. He had been appointed by the convention committee. I had to stop and scold him in front of the crowd. If this young man had been of sound spiritual mind the whole incident would have been avoided. But the worst thing this incompatibility creates is a strain on the speaker that can effect his concentration and the whole spiritual outcome of the meeting. Interpreters should be in doctrinal harmony with what their guests are teaching, and if that guest is teaching wrong things to the church the interpreter becomes an instrument of the devil to corrupt the church and becomes a partaker of the false teacher’s evil deeds.

Tommy Hicks asked his guide to interpret for him at a train station in Russia. The Communist guide started interpreting him and then suddenly turned and spit in his face. This is an extreme case but goes to show that the oneness of the speaker and interpreter is important to having the right effect of the message. The story does not end there – brother Hicks was at first humiliated and he began to weep. The Holy Spirit came upon him and he began praying in the Holy Spirit and the people re-gathered to listen to him – He was speaking in Russian!

A Word Of Advice To Interpreters.


The interpreter is usually among his friends as he travels with a foreign guest. This means that you are often found in groups such as conferences and conventions where you have many friends of your own as an interpreter. You have not seen some of these friends for a long time and the tendency is to be caught up in conservation and forget the man that you are suppose to be the voice of. Be very careful, when you are in a crowd, to stay close to the man that you are interpreting for. He not only needs you when he is lecturing and speaking, but he needs you in personal conversation. In fact, the personal conversation aspect of the interpreters responsibilities is often not even considered by the interpreter as being important part of the interpreting, but it is actually one the most important and a time your guest especially needs you nearby. The interpreter is not just important in the pulpit with the speaker but extremely helpful in a personal way in private conversations away from the public meeting.

The interpreter remains at the side of his guest and must remember that he is the only voice and understanding and means of communication between the guest and those around him. The personal conversations after the meeting that follow the pulpit ministry are as important as the public speaking.

It is in the din of the crowd and the running around on errands the interpreter makes with or without the guest preacher between preaching that is also vitally important to the guest and his ministry that constitutes a very important part of your job as an interpreter.

It may be that the guest will find another person who speaks his language and then he may release his formal interpreter and use another interpreter for a brief time – but the designated interpreter should either find someone to do this or himself remain at the side of the guest, so the guest can communicate at all times. That is important not only to the guest, but should be an assumed responsibility of a good interpreter.


When you go from interpreting for the guest to a crowd from the platform to private conversation, you also go from Interpreting to translating. It is good to keep that difference in mind when you start interpreting for your guest in private conversation. Flow is still important but is secondary to being carefully literal in private conversation.

There are two ways to interpret private conversation:

1. Word for word between the guest and the other person.

2. By accumulation, that is, by the interpreter accumulating the entire matter from the first person and then transferring this information to the guest.

The first method is the proper method of interpreting your guest under all circumstances unless there is special permission given by your guest to accumulate the entire conversation, such as in crowded circumstances where the guest may ask you to do this while he is busy with someone else.

Interpreting should always be done as the guest prefers it to be done and especially if he has experience traveling and knows how he wants his interpreting done. A good interpreter will never tell the experienced guest speaker what is best. That is the prerogative of the guest and not the interpreter.

The best rule for an interpreter to go by when interpreting is to remember the golden rule which Jesus gave us, “As you would have others do to you, so do unto others.” How do you like the guest to give his message when working through you? Do prefer that he gives the whole message or perhaps speak for several minutes and then let you interpret what he has said after you have heard everything he is saying and understand it yourself? No! To the contrary, the greatest complaint I have heard from interpreters about foreign speakers is that they make their sentences too long and to shorten what they are saying to make it easier for the interpreter.

The same rule applies when someone is speaking to your guest (instead of him speaking to others), he like to hear what his friend is saying word by word. Following are some reasons why the accumulative method is not only a poor method but a wrong method.

1. I have had interpreters that I could not get to follow my instruction to them and insist on soaking up everything the first person was saying to the guest. Before I knew it, the person speaking and the interpreter were taken up in a conversation between themselves and I had to stand by frustrated and remind the interpreter that I was waiting to hear what my friend was saying TO ME.

2. After the interpreter listened to my friend speak for several minutes, he interpreted everything in a few short seconds. I was sure that everything that was being said to me was not being conveyed in its entirety. What the interpreter had done was pass on to me a very condensed translation of what my friend was saying but the actual detailed conversation did not reach me. Sure enough! I found later that something said in the conversation had not been passed on to me and plans were made I knew nothing about! And which I would have never approved. If the conversation is relayed word for word, phrase by phrase, (the same as the interpreter likes to receive his words from the guest when preaching) is the only way to interpret properly. I’ve had a few interpreters with this bad habit of accumulative interpreting say to me, “Well, I have to understand everything he is saying before I can interpret it to you. This not true, because if that were true, then you would want to use such a method for the preaching.

When an interpreter wants to accumulate private conversation before giving it to the guest he is not interpreting, he is translating and acting as an intermediary for the guest. An interpreter is not an intermediary (representing the guest), The guest being interpreted should be in complete control of his own communication powers. Accumulative interpreting is a bad habit for an interpreter to get into. It is impossible to listen to an entire explanation over minutes and then give all of the information to the guest accurately.

I asked one interpreter why her interpretation was so short when the other brother’s conversation was so much longer. Her explanation was that “there were many unnecessary allusions and idle words in what he said that it wasn’t necessary to repeat everything.” It is not the business of the interpreter to be a censor to anything being said between the persons he or she is interpreting. Every word spoken expresses a feeling, an emotion that should be faithfully conveyed to the other person. It is a breach of ethics to leave a single word out of conversation when transferring that conversation to the guest. It is the right of the guest to judge whether something said has meaning or not. In fact, it is many times true that when learning to know each other better every single word spoken is a part of that person’s personality.

Also, there are often many little details or bits of information in the comments of my friend that help me understand him as a person better. Never, never, never edit, censor, control, screen or filter out, or act as an examiner of any conversation spoken between the two parties you are interpreting for. Put your mind out of gear, become completely neutral and faithfully interpret word for word the true meaning of the persons in conversation. When I find any interpreter of mine trying to control me or change the actual conversation of either myself or my guest, I start looking for another interpreter.

All interpreters I have ever met like short sentences spoken in an articulate and understandable manner when interpreting – the same rule applies when you are interpreting private conversations.

ANOTHER EXCEPTION TO BEING LITERAL – There are some words used in one language that means something quite bad in another language. In this case the interpreter may have to avoid that word or quickly explain to his guest why it cannot be used. In such cases the interpreter may have to use his best judgment and change the actual wording of a guest. When the interpreter knows that a certain word or term spoken by the foreigner is highly offensive or used in an altogether different way than it is being used by the speaker, he is in one of those rare situations where he must take command. What to do in this case? The wise thing to do is to quietly explain to the guest the misunderstanding that his words may cause and why. Then let the guest make changes and determine himself how he would reword his statement. When possible, never think for the guest but let the guest think for himself.

A good example of this is the use of the word “motel” when in Brazil. In Brazil motels are houses of prostitution. When you are told that “He goes to the motels,” you are saying he is an immoral man. You never go to a motel driving along the road in Brazil, and you never refer to a motel in the pulpit or in conversation.

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. Ecclesiastes 9:10

The interpreter, the host pastor and the guest speaker should pray together and for one another as they are working together to make the preaching of God’s Word effective.


  1. Felix Reply
    Hello,I agree, it amazes me when I talk to peploe who do not know about the Deaf community and culture. I am a college student, studying to be an interpreter so I am thankful that I have the knowledge about this community and culture. I can also say that I knew of the Deaf as a child. I can't exactly remember but I gained some knowledge about deaf peploe when I was younger. I think that has to do with why I wanted to become an interpreter. I would say that more peploe need to open up their minds and learn about the Deaf!I would also like to say that more companies need to follow and understand the ADA because I do not think they carry through with the rules, regulations, and rights. We somehow need to get the knowledge out there to companies who are sheltered about the Deaf and ADA so they can have the knowledge and aren't sideblinded when they have a deaf person involved with their company and they do not know what to do.
    • Kaycee Reply
      Short, sweet, to the point, FREE-exactly as information shloud be!

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