5 Steps to Giving a Presentation in a Foreign Language

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Giving a speech or business presentation in a foreign language? That adds often an additional layer of excitement but also insecurity. I often hear: “I am ok when I present in my native language, but in English/French/Chinese/(add your second language here)? That’s another story.”

Therefore I wanted to share with you the process that I have applied to be able to give keynotes in Dutch and currently work-on progress to give keynotes in French as of 2017.

I am starting from two assumptions:

  • You have already a presentation more or less ready and now need to give that presentation in another language. In case overall presentation creation and delivery is also a focus topic for you than you can read further here or here or here.
  • I also assume that you already have experience in the other language, i.e. that you can speak on a moderate/intermediate level but not yet full fluent presentation style level. Giving a speech in a language that is totally new to you is another matter.

Now to the 5 steps. They are: iphone it, Dragon it, Google it, Upwork it, and mYngle it.

I am using some of my favourite tools I use here, I am sure there are also other solutions.

Step 1: iphone it!

In the presentation that you are familiar with, e.g. your native language, record that speech, e.g. on your iPhone of whatever device/smartphone you have at hand that can record and give a recognisable file format as output. You ideally want to use a lapel microphone so that your hands are free while you are talking.

Step 2: Dragon it!

Now you need to transcribe this speech. You can do this yourself (takes a bit of time) or send it to a transcribtion service (some money involved). A good alternative is to Dragon it, i.e. use speech recognition software like e.g. Nuance’s Dragon Natural Speaking that turns your speech into a text file.

Step 3: Google it!

This is not for research now here, but rather to use Google Translate. This will give you a first draft of your speech in the language of your choice. The first draft part is actually really, really important. Although software is eating the world you cannot yet fully trust this translation. If you don’t pay attention you will end up with very funny sentences which will probably amuse your audience for the wrong reasons. That’s why you need to do step 4:

Step 4: Upwork it! 

Go to a freelancer platform like e.g. Upwork (formerly known as elance and odesk) or freelancer.com or somewhere else in your network and try to find a copywriter that copyedits and corrects your text. You want to carve out the edges from your speech that Google Translate left. Now you should have a decent text in the other language.

Step5: mYngle it!

Now it’s time to practice your speech. Here, platforms like mYngle can help where you can work with language teachers over Skype in virtually any language. You need to contact a teacher, schedule a first lesson and then ask whether they are ok with you giving these presentations over Skype. Practice it a couple of times, first reading out loud, then reading a bit less, until you’re more or less fluent. Voila.

There is no blue pill that can magically transform you into a fluent speaker of another language. However, it is a very rewarding exercise that can also broaden your professional and personal horizon. With a bit of effort and some small investments you can make big leaps forward and also give your presentations in other languages. Do you have additional strategies? I am curious to hear from you.

Lars Sudmann is an expert on high-performance leadership in global corporations. You can contact Lars to work with you as change consultant or keynote speaker & workshop facilitator for your next event. Lars works in English, German and Dutch and is using the above process to soon give presentations in French as well. This article also appeared on his blog: www.lars-sudmann.com, where you can also watch his TEDx talks. You can also follow Lars here and on Twitter

Images credit: Shutterstock.com; To simplify things, one of the above links lead to an affiliate site to directly show you the product.

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