The translation of general conference into many different languages has been going on for years; and for the second time in new facilities in the Conference Center during the just-concluded conference. Prior to last October, all translation was done in the basement of the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square.
But even though the location has changed, the spirit remains the same, according to Sua Pe'a whose six-member team does the Samoan translation.
"This is the most educational, inspirational, uplifting calling I've ever had," he said of the duty he has fulfilled for more than 30 years. "I wouldn't trade it for anything."
Interviewed during a media tour of the translation facilities the Thursday before general conference, Brother Pe'a added, "You're the voice of the prophet to your people. It's a sobering thought that you have that responsibility."
The new facilities consist of 58 translation rooms and an open-meeting area behind a wall at the back of the auditorium. The booths seem to be packed in, but Brother Pe'a said they offer more room than similar facilities in the Tabernacle.
Each language has a booth adjacent to an open evaluation desk. The enclosed booth has room for two translators to sit at a roomy tabletop. Between them are control knobs and a monitor receiving the conference broadcast. Each has a headset to listen to the talk. One speaks the translation into a microphone.
Just outside the booth door, two evaluators can sit and listen to the translation on headphones, and fill out evaluation forms on a spacious desk.
Though the booths are tucked tightly together in limited space, they offer adequate privacy for each language's translation team to do its work.
Devotionals and other gatherings can be held in the meeting area. But it is not nearly large enough to comfortably accommodate the approximately 450 translators who serve during general conference, according to Paul Kern, director of translation services for the Church.
The move from the Tabernacle to the Conference Center has been a blessing, according to Brother Kern. He said some of the advantages are that it is newer, more modern, has bigger booths and superior digital sound quality.
And while there was a lot of general traffic in the basement of the Tabernacle, the space in the Conference Center is exclusively used for translation. "It's nice to have a place called home," Brother Kern said.
He noted that digital technology is being installed in the Tabernacle facility so that it can serve as an overflow as needed in the future.
In spite of the advantages of the new area, it still has its challenges, according to Brother Kern. Most stem from the large number of people involved and include everything from workflow to reverence. "The secret to crowd control," he pointed out, "is senior missionary couples." They supervise the activities in the translation area, administering and managing the potentially overwhelming task.
"They calm things down and know how to get a large group pointed in the right direction," he said.
During general conference, 56 languages were interpreted in the translation center, utilizing all but two of the total number of booths.
The translating teams worked with printed texts of talks amounting to about 85,000 pages, according to Brother Kern.
International language offices in five countries — Germany, Holland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway — provided the translations for their languages using Blue Box Codec technology, Brother Kern said. Through an analog feed, translators in those countries received the audio of the conference talks, and returned the digital translation through the Conference Center equipment to go out on the satellite. The international transfer takes about a second, he said.