Meet the Contributors: Wajuppa Tossa

Book Chapter: How To Be A Storyteller Across Language Barriers

Her Thoughts: Wajuppa Tossa states that she was not a storyteller until she met and worked with Dr. Margaret Read MacDonald in a project to engender pride in local dialects in northeast Thailand (Isan). In the project, she translated stories from English into Lao, the language spoken by most people in Isan.

After a year of working together with Dr. MacDonald, Wajuppa Tossa was confident enough to call herself a storyteller. Working with a master storyteller is the quickest way to become a good storyteller. In the translation, one must try to capture the emotional expressions of the teller of the original language. One of the most important keys is to be able to practice as many times as possible. The teller and the translator must have a good rapport to make each performance works.

One of the most effective ways of telling stories with a translator is to incorporate a few words of the second language in the telling. If storytellers are in the situation where there is no translator and to make the audience understand the story, gestures with a few words could help.

Finally, as a storyteller, one needs to be observant, to learn some words or phrases to use, and to use voices, facial expressions, and gestures in telling. With all or some of these, language is no longer a barrier and the storytelling will be successful.

See Dr. Tossa peform a story using a translator:

Dr. Wajuppa Tossa, holds a B.Ed. (English) and a M.Ed. (English Language and Literature) from Srinakharinwirot University, Prasanmitra, with a Ph.D. (English and American Literature) from Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, USA, teaches at Mahasarakham University Thailand since 1978. She tells stories to revitalize Thai/Lao folktales and storytelling tradition. She has performed and given workshops on folktales and storytelling in USA, Australia, Singapore, and Indonesia. Wajuppa’s books include Phadaeng Nang Ai and Phya Khankhaak, the Toad King (1990,1996), Lao Folktales (2008) and parts of Telling Tales of Southeast Asia and Korea (2011).

About Storyteller

Sean Buvala has been engaged with storytelling and communication since 1986. From kids in classrooms to bosses in boardrooms, from presenting workshops for global salt miners to consulting with Ph.D.’s in pharmaceuticals, Sean has told and taught stories in nearly every industry and setting. He’s been the boss (and janitor) of a non-profit organization and is currently the entrepreneur-in-charge for his work as the “No-Nonsense Storytelling Coach™.”
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