Bilingual Students Prepare to Interpret General Conference



    The Interpretation and Translation Training Club uses software developed at BYU to prepare students to interpret the general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Graduate student Christian Weibell, studying instructional psychology and technology, designed the prototype for the software and BYU funded the development.

    In 1995, a year after returning from a Vietnamese speaking mission to Canada, Weibell began interpreting for the church general conferences and international meetings.

    He was motivated to design the software and founded the club because he saw a need for more qualified and worthy interpreters within the church, Weibell said.

    “The church is trying really hard to have the best quality that they can,” he said. “We have a goal to try to identify those people at BYU who are interested in interpreting or translating for the church and becoming a feeder program to help them.”

    Currently, general conference is translated in 84 languages, Weibell said.

    Not only is the club designed to help those seeking to interpret for the church but anyone who is interested in practicing a second language.

    “The general purpose of this club is to give students who are bilingual or multilingual the opportunity to take those skills and do more than be able to communicate in that language,” Weibell said.

    To participate in the club, language proficiency is not required. Weibell said students who may be in lower-level language courses may use the program to compare the transcripts of English and another language.

    “I’ve learned a lot of my Spanish just by playing this and then reading the Spanish text along,” he said.

    The software Weibell designed allows the would-be translator to watch a previous conference talk and simultaneously interpret it, all the while the computer captures the voice and evaluates it.

    “There is no better training on earth to prepare for general conference than what we have,” Weibell said.

    Speaking a second language is not the only skill necessary to be a good interpreter, however. There are other things involved in becoming a church interpreter, and like any other skill it requires practice.

    “You need to be able to listen to a certain amount of what the say and hold that in your mind long enough to interpret it,” he said. ” But, it’s not just taking one word and finding the equivalent word, you really have to communicate the same feeling.”

    For Peruvian native Sheila Sarmiento, who moved to the United States eight years ago, interpreting for general conference is her aspiration. Because knowing the language is not enough, she attends club meetings to use the software to improving improve her translating skills.

    “I’ve been her for eight years and your Spanish tends to get very basic,” Sarimiento said.

    The software helps her recall the words she needs to translate and encourages her to use proper Spanish.

    Even if students are not planning to major in Spanish or aspire to interpret, the club provides an opportunity to serve the community.

    Junior Dillin Ellsworth, who served a mission in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was attracted to the club because it provided opportunities to fulfill the community service requirements for his American Heritage class.

    He is in the process of volunteering with Project Read, an adult literacy program of the Provo City Library. Ellsworth will work one-on-one with people who wish to improve writing and reading skills in either Spanish or English.

    “I would like to be able to help people in the community who have translating needs,” Ellsworth said.

    International Interpretation and Translation Club

    Meetings: Wednesdays from 7-8 p.m.@ B013 JFSB

    For more information contact Christian Weibell,

    Membership is free

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