SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH — Edna Alba recalls sitting at a banquet table, bulky headset in place and her feet resting on a dirt floor underneath the Tabernacle during a session of general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Alba assumed the task of interpreting the meeting’s proceedings from English to her native Spanish language.
Not only was there a dirt floor, but also an Army tent pitched as a protective barrier from interrupting noises.
Alba was one of the very early interpreters for conference proceedings, beginning her volunteer service in 1966.
The process of interpretation, the spoken transfer of information from one language to another, actually began with the October 1961 session of conference. From that time to today, thousands of interpreters have participated in conveying messages of Church leaders throughout the entire world. The October 2011 general conference marks the 50th anniversary of providing interpretation services for general conference.
“That first interpretation was spurred by the fact that stakes were created outside the United States, and Church leaders were being brought in to conference,” explained Jeff Bateson, director of the Church’s translation division. “There was a need to make the messages available in other languages.”
The interpreters began with only four languages (German, Dutch, Samoan and Spanish); today’s interpreters employ 93 languages.