Growing up, I use to take many masterclasses with famous international Flutists. I only spoke Japanese up until the age of 18 or so, so most of these public Flute lessons were done with the help of interpreters. Although my experience with interpreters have been positive in general, there have been some exceptionally great experiences that I've had, where I felt I was understanding exactly the guest teacher was saying, and I felt as if I was communicating directly with that teacher. And THAT is only something a truly wonderful interpreter can do.
Meet Honoré Diakanua. He is a trombonist in the Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra, a talented composer, AND an extraordinary interpreter. Nana and I had the pleasure of working with him for many days in Kinshasa with the orchestra members.
As many of the members we taught were understandably shy in the beginning, I wasn't sure how to approach them. When I started working with my first student Natalie one-on-one, it began the way many first lessons begin. She played, I smiled & commented, Honoré translated, she smiled & nodded, and tried again. The polite ritual went on for several minutes, but the dynamic began to shift quickly.
Was it my teaching? Not at all. It was because of Honoré, and his fantastic interpreting skills. I wouldn't say he had perfect use of the English language. But he used the same energy and the same tone as me when he spoke, and he stayed right by my side the entire time! He was becoming... Me (and quite a bit more, to be honest!). That helped Natalie to digest whatever I was suggesting in her own language without having things get lost in translation. Soon, she started asking many questions. Honoré translated them back to me in the same manner, I gave her an answer, and he translated it back to Natalie. It was flawless chamber music. By the end of the first lesson with her, Natalie and I had bonded. And that bond made it so much easier for me to work with her in the days to come. We could even get by without Honoré for a while in lessons, as we had that trust and openness towards each other.
Teaching one-on-one lessons is not just about a teacher telling things and a student doing whatever the teacher want. It's a trust, it's a relationship, and it's an exchanging of energy. Students usually feel more comfortable and play better when they feel close to their teachers, and teachers get more energy and teach better by feeling their students opening up more and more. And that special dance is usually not easily achieved, especially with an interpreter in the middle. Unless it's Honoré, or very few other fantastic interpreters in the world. (A big shoutout to Sachiko Meisen, the lovely wife of my mentor Paul Meisen! I must say she is THE BEST-EST interpreter in the planet!)
Honore's skill as an interpreter is almost making me lazy about learning Lingala/French... No, no, no Kaori.. Must learn Lingala/French regardless!