Bonifacio Global City Taguig, Philippines
The interpretation team are composed by church employees and volunteers around the world, there job is to turn each messages and talks from the conference into their own language.
According to LDS.org the work of general conference interpretation—which means making a spoken message available in another language, while translation refers to making a written message available—begins as early as six months in advance, almost as soon as the previous conference session has ended, said Brad Lindsay, manager of Interpretation Services for the Church.
“There’s a lot of preparation work, from reviewing what we’ve done in the past, to learning from issues that may have come up, to responding to requests from areas asking for new languages they’d like made available at the next general conference,” Brother Lindsay said. “We also do a lot of training of new interpreters and spend time finding people to replace interpreters who have moved on to other assignments.”
While a few general conference interpreters are Church employees in various parts of the world, an overwhelming number—some 800 people—are volunteers.
Sylvia Contesse of Switzerland now works for the Church doing professional translation, but she began as a volunteer in a time when interpreters had little time to prepare before conference began. “We received the text of the talks in English at the last minute,” she recalled. “It was a huge responsibility.”
But, she said, “It was and is a privilege,” she said. And even though interpretation work—whether consecutive (where the speaker says something, stops, and lets the interpreter restate the phrase in another language) or simultaneous (where the speaker and interpreter talk at the same time)—is demanding work, it is also, Sister Contesse said, a gift. “It makes you feel very humble. Of course, when you use that gift for the Church, I think the Spirit helps you more than usual!”
The sacrifice of these volunteers—either people who are native speakers of a particular language or returned missionaries who learned the language on their missions—is tremendous, said Jeff Bateson, director of the Translation Division. In addition to sharing their skills and donating their time on conference weekend, they also commit to training sessions. And for many of them, general conference is just one of many events when they offer their services.
With the exception of nine languages, for which a recording is sent post-conference for members who speak that language to watch after the fact, conference is always transmitted live. That doesn’t mean, of course, that everyone watches it live. The Sunday afternoon session of conference, which begins at 2:00 p.m. mountain daylight time, airs live at midnight on Monday in Moscow, Russia. Local priesthood leaders may designate the following weekend or another time that is more convenient for most members to watch conference proceedings.
Interpreters, on the other hand, do participate live. All over the world, those offering their services do so in real time, as general conference is unfolding, even if it’s at an unusual hour in their area.
“Because we do everything live, we may have onsite interpreters working at 4:00 a.m.,” Brother Bateson said. “They come and spend the whole day at the area office or a local meetinghouse, since there are only two hours between sessions and that may not always be enough time to go home. There’s a great degree of sacrifice involved in what they do.”