On July 15th of this year our family moved to Sweden and on Sunday November 13th I preached for the first time in Swedish. Here’s how it happened.
First of all a few points to set the scene. Right now the only language I’m fluent in is English. I have appalling French and improving Swedish. I knew some words and phrases before moving here but our learning began in earnest in July (well August really). At present I have a basic level of conversation and I make frequent grammatical errors in everyday speech (much like my English). But I have enough of a grasp of the general feel for the language to have a go. That, plus I was challenged too and well I don’t like to back down from those. The preach itself while not perfectly delivered wasn’t too bad and mostly didn’t detract from the content, which was a big worry.
- Write your sermon word for word in English: First you get your content down in the language you know best. It’s the only place to start.
- Edit thoroughly: I had numerous places where my sentences were too long, ideas too complex and words too elaborate. All of this makes it difficult to translate and likely difficult to deliver.
- Get help with the translation: Don’t rely on Google translate. It might give you the gist but chances are you going to say some strange things if that’s all you did. My talk went to at least two native Swedes who are pretty fluent in English. This ironed out any remaining complicated ideas or words that were difficult to translate.
- Practice your pronunciation: Having got my script in Swedish, I read it through with my translators. I didn’t preach it, just spoke it. This was to find out which words I had difficulty saying, where I was putting emphasis and stress in the wrong places, and to get a feel for the sermon.
- Practice preaching it: I did this a couple of times just in the house and this really helped me, get a bit of confidence. I didn’t just want to read something, I wanted to preach something!
- Make it easy to read: I had my talk printed out in size 14 font double spaced and I printed it in Swedish and English. 18 pages in total. I put it in a plastic binder with the English on the left and the Swedish on the right. My eye naturally looks to the right page so I could see the Swedish, but if I got a bit stuck or lost I could easily find my place again with the English. This worked really well.
- Have lots of encouraging friends around: No question about how important this one was; without the regular flow of encouragement from friends allaying fears about how bad my Swedish is and encouraging me to go for it this would have been hard and much more nerve-wracking than it was.
- Speak slow, speak clearly, stay calm: I’ve preached a lot, so that helps not having to fight the nerves about talking in front of people. But even so it was important to take my time and make sure I was clear.
- Don’t be afraid of adding bits in your native tongue: In a few places, I just wanted to add a bit more but my brain just couldn’t find the Swedish fast enough, so I just did it in English and the translator stepped in.
- Ask God for help: Nothing else to add there really.