Communication challenge conquered for conference

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    By Joy Simmons

    The crowds who gathered in Salt Lake City for General Conference included 400 people involved in the interpreting effort.

    The 172nd Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be available in 52 languages in all parts of the world by satellite, the Internet, or videotape.

    “It”s a privilege to cover the earth in this way,” said Bruce Muir, director of the non-scripture division in the church”s translation department.

    On the Internet, conference was broadcast live in approximately 30 languages. It was broadcast via satellite to Europe in 15 languages and to 786 stake centers in 17 Central and South American countries. In areas where satellite transmission is not available, church units will receive videotapes of conference sessions.

    Muir said conference interpretation is a very detailed and carefully planned process.

    “We want to make sure the quality of the language is very high,” Muir said.

    The translation department receives conference talks several days before conference. They send them via e-mail to language offices stationed all over the world where the talks are translated then e-mailed back to Salt Lake City. Interpreters working in the lower level of the Tabernacle read these translations live over satellite and the Internet and for tape.

    “As the scriptures say, everyone shall hear the gospel in their own tongue,” said Masakazu Watabe, BYU professor of Japanese for Asian and Near Eastern Languages. He has served as a Japanese translator during conference for more than 30 years.

    Watabe said he does it because he believes language skills are a blessing from Heavenly Father whether they are learned or acquired.

    “These talents should be used to help Heavenly Father”s work,” he said.

    Interpreters” voices were sent not only across the world but also into the Conference Center and overflow locations on Temple Square. Jeff Palmer, event coordinator at Temple Square, said non-English speakers who came to Salt Lake City to attend conference were provided with headsets.

    When international visitors pick up their tickets they are asked if they need a translator. If they answer yes, they are given tickets for the session in which their language can be heard. Certain languages are only offered during particular sessions and not during others, Palmer said.

    Because of the large Spanish population, Palmer said the Assembly Hall on Temple Square was set up for Spanish speakers only.

    Back in 1962, Spanish was one of the only three languages conference could be heard in. The number of languages grew to 27 by 1985 and up to 34 by 1997.

    Although conference is heard now in over 50 languages, Watabe said technology has reduced the need for translators in Salt Lake City.

    “In the old days everything had to be done here,” Watabe said.

    He said he hopes his work during conference means something to the Japanese, but we”ll have to ask them for sure.

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