[OSList] Tips for working with Translators during Open Space event

Birgitt Williams via OSList oslist at lists.openspacetech.org
Mon Feb 22 15:53:27 PST 2016

Great input so far. 

I would like to tell a beautiful little story. Thomas Herrmann once
facilitated an OST meeting for us speaking only in Swedish, deliberately
doing the opening and so on in a language that none of us understood. It
worked wonderfully and we had a lot of fun. It helped that some of us had
experience with the meeting. I just wanted to say that the beauty of the
experiment was that we did not need a common language with the facilitator.

And now for some tips to add to the ones already posted. I go back to
whatever principles are guiding me. In this instant, it would be a principle
of equality of relationships and equality for relating. Then the question is
not so much about translating as it is about how to create this equality. It
helps to think this way when making a choice from the options for

When there is such a small number of people with a language difference in
relation to the total number of people, I would facilitate the opening first
in Korean and then in the dominant language. It doesn't hurt the group to
sit through two openings and can have lots of benefits.

I would add 10 translators to the conference who could buddy one per person,
to be in service to them. And then leave it up to each of the 10 people who
need the translation as to when, how much, where, they want the service to
be given. It gives them more freedom within their own personal needs. Some,
once they get into small groups, might not want the translator to help.
Others might...I would not assume that they all have the same
learning/participation needs.

Best of joy with this,
Birgitt Williams

Birgitt Williams

President & Senior Consultant of Dalar International Consultancy, Inc. 
Co-founder of the Extraordinary Leadership Network
Co-founder of the Genuine ContactTprogram and author of The Genuine Contact
Way: Nourishing a Culture of Leadership  http://www.genuinecontactway.com

Co-owner of the Genuine Contact Co-owners Group Ltd.

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-----Original Message-----
From: OSList [mailto:oslist-bounces at lists.openspacetech.org] On Behalf Of
Lisa Heft - via OSList
Sent: Monday, February 22, 2016 6:39 PM
To: Andrew Rixon; OSLIST
Subject: Re: [OSList] Tips for working with Translators during Open Space

Hi, Andrew -

I find that for Open Space, there are times when a skilled translator may be
helpful, and times when "whisper translation" amongst fellow participants
may be helpful.

I have used a lot of full-group capacity/visibility tricks like putting a
colored dot on peoples' name-tags to tell which of the several top / shared
languages at an event each person speaks. 
Sometimes a client has money to pay for a professional simultaneous
translator (with or without headphone technology), sometimes they do not. 

If we deconstruct the process of Open Space, there is.

- Opening Circle - where the facilitator explains principles, process,
perhaps a few instructions about documentation ...and, as everyone is
quietly listening all at once, this time works well for either
1) a professional translator talking into the headsets of the mono-lingual
participants, or
2) a translator walking around with the facilitator saying these things in
Korean just after they say them in the main meeting language.
3) or, as people often arrive and first sit with their friends / language
buddies, whisper translation amongst participants can also happen

- Opening Circle is where participants write, announce and post their topic
signs, as well
1) If a 'headset' translator is working for Opening Circle, they can speak
the topics into the Korean participants' headsets, and can speak in (main
conference language) anything a Korean participant wants to announce + post
2) or if there is whisper / buddy translation, someone can come up to the
center with the mono-lingual Korean speaker to announce in main conference
language after that person first says it in their home (Korean) language

I have also had great clients who have trained a bunch of bi-lingual
speakers - non-professionals - participants - for a day in both concepts of
the meeting (agriculture, for instance) so they have a glossary of
translation terms in their heads - and in Open Space concepts. Those folks
might have that colored dot or wear a specific-to-that-color piece of fabric
to indicate they are traveling amongst the meeting participants with this
language capability, even though they too are participants. These
now-trained translators can add that skill to their resumes / cv's so it
brings up the visibility of (for example) community participants as being
diversely skilled.

When a client has hired a professional translator, after Opening Circle,
they might walk around to the different small groups, but if this
colored-dot-on-your-nametag method is used, they are usually waved away by
the participants, who have their own capacity by this point. They can look
across their own little group and ask a co-participant to translate for them
as needed.

In Closing Circle, once again there is silence, where the translation
process for Opening Circle can be used again.

For documentation design, if a client has capacity / resources, they can
translate the Book of Proceedings - often written in the main language of
the conference - into the one next-most-spoken language of the conference
(example: Korean). 

And all written materials (Notes-Taker forms, small group participant
sign-in sheets, principles posted around the room) can be translated /
written in the top two or three most spoken languages of the conference /

 Of course, the way to know this capacity and language capability is by
having participants pre-register to identify whether they are bi-lingual,
mono-lingual (in which case someone is often helping them fill out the
registration information) or has other resources or capacities.

I've done this with groups of hundreds of participants where there are many
languages spoken - we have identified the top four-most-spoken languages and
resourced translation or made color codes because this was as many as the
client could afford to support - and everyone else did just fine with the
colored dot system. 

I look forward to hearing what our other colleagues have tried and found to
be successful regarding working with groups with two or more languages -
specifically when using Open Space.

Thanks for the question,

Lisa Heft
Consultant, Facilitator, Educator
Opening Space

On Feb 22, 2016, at 1:18 PM, Andrew Rixon via OSList
<oslist at lists.openspacetech.org> wrote:

> Hi All,
> I'm helping a client prepare for an Open Space event - 400 people, and
within the audience there will be a group of 10-20 koreans who will require
a translator.
> I'd love to hear stories and tips on what people have found to work
> Warm regards,
> Andrew

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