I married a Gringo. My Cuban grandmother speaks not a word of English, and my husband only knows how to say “cheese” and “hello” in Spanish. This means I spend a lot of time translating. This weekend, I tried to tell my abuela a story about a nightmare my husband had experienced. In the dream, my sweet husband decides to go to a nail salon to purchase a manicure for me, but the Asian lady at the front desk misunderstands him and begins to do his nails. He tries over and over again to tell her he does not want a manicure, but she keeps saying to him, “You, be still. I do a good job.” Thankfully, he woke up before he had to choose a nail color.
Describing my husband’s crazy nocturnal images to an elderly female Cuban proved to be a bit difficult for me. For starters, I had no idea how to say “nightmare” or “manicure” in Spanish. I decided to just translate it as “bad dream,” but my grandfather corrected me and told me the actual word was “pesadilla.” I had never used that word before, and it was totally unfamiliar to me.
The problem I face sometimes is that some phrases are just not “translatable.” No matter what words I choose, my abuela will never understand the punchline of my husband’s jokes, and some “Cuban sayings” seem pretty absurd if I translate them literally into English. You can’t translate cultural understanding.
Have you ever had a similar experience? Have you tried to communicate a concept to someone who just doesn’t seem to speak the same language you do? I struggle the same way when I try to share my faith sometimes. Jesus has taught me a language of love and peace — His forgiveness is such a beautiful gift. Yet, I find myself struggling with how to translate Him to those who don’t understand or know.
This week, I realized that Jesus knew His disciples would feel inadequate for the task of communicating the Gospel. In Luke 12, Christ tells them not to worry though:
“…the Holy Spirit will teach you
in that very hour what you ought to say” (v.12, ESV).
I am so thankful that God uses tongue-tied, vocabulary-hindered me to share His story. He will give me the right words — words of life.
Q4U: Do you struggle with finding the right words to communicate the Good News to those who don’t “speak Christian”?
My one-word focus for the year is “fruitilicious.” Find out what that means here.
Joining like-minded sisters today at Faith-Filled Friday, Thought-Provoking Thursday, Tell His Story, Playdates with God, Hear it on Sunday: Use it on Monday, and Soli Deo Gloria.