As the television broadcast of the 180th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is beamed across the globe, hundreds of interpreters, administrators and support personnel are busy behind the scenes simultaneously converting the spoken word into 92 languages.
“Months of preparation by nearly 800 dedicated workers culminate in the delivery of conference worldwide to millions of viewers and listeners,” said Bradley Lindsay, operations manager for Church Translation Services and a Hmong language interpreter.
Foreign language interpretation began in 1961 beneath the Tabernacle on Temple Square. Initially general conference was interpreted in four languages. Today there are 58 translation booths located inside the Conference Center, including a large control room with Tieline technology that continues to expand the reach of the Church’s foreign language capabilities.
Interpretation of general conference will be done for 52 languages by teams in the Conference Center and 39 additional teams in locations throughout the world.
“It isn’t as mechanical as some might think,” said Jeff Bateson, the Church’s director of Translation Services. “Translation is a gift of the Spirit.”
Rodney Fakatou has four decades of sharing language skills in his native Tongan.
“Some words and phrases translate differently,” said Fakatou. “It takes hours of practice and quiet, contemplative preparation. We really rely on the Spirit.”
Interpreters include both employees and missionaries; some are professional linguists, while others volunteer their language skills gained from serving foreign-speaking missions.
Diana Tucker is a Spanish translator who says interpreters must be temple worthy because of “the spiritual nature of voicing the words of prophets and apostles.”
Each interpreter will deliver five or six talks over the two-day conference.
In addition to general conference, interpretation services are provided for nearly 200 additional events each year.