News Release

No confusion of languages at Mormon general conference

Every six months, faithful and friends from around the world gather to watch and listen to the general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While millions of believers may think of the next conference held October 5-6, 2013, as an occasion for spiritual reflection and fellowship, hundreds of interpreters are preparing themselves for a lot of work ahead of them.

The United Nations use six official languages. The European Parliament works in 20 languages. For the Church’s general conference, more than 800 paid and volunteer interpreters join in a worldwide effort to make proceedings available in 94 languages via television, radio, satellite and internet broadcasts. Thanks to their service, more than 98 percent of Church members have at least one conference session available in their own language.

The conference originates from the Church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City in U.S. State of Utah and features addresses by the President of the Church and other leading officers.

Interpreters meet in Salt Lake City or one of twelve translation offices in other parts of the world.

Interpreters and translators in Frankfurt are working around the clock to complete a multitude of projects. With general conference right around the corner, their staff is about to face one of their busiest times of the year. Axel Gomann, German language supervisor stated, “Here in the Frankfurt office, it is our job to translate all conference sessions along with the news and inspiring stories in between sessions.”

Interpreting general conference requires great skill and preparation. All of Gomann’s staff are not only native German speakers and experienced members of the Church, but are expected to demonstrate mastery level interpretation and enunciation skills as well as sensitivity to spiritual matters. “There is a great deal of spiritual preparation that goes into translating for general conference – especially the words of a prophet,” Gomann said.

Gomann recalls a few years ago when their Frankfurt office wasn’t equipped with cutting edge technology – sound booths, monitors, and satellite relays – as it is today. German interpreters, along with many others around the globe, traveled to Salt Lake City to interpret.

The process of interpretation began with the October 1961 general conference, when a few local lay ministers from various countries met in Salt Lake City to hear the inspired messages of the leading officers of the Church. Interpreters began with only four languages then – German, Dutch, Samoan, and Spanish.

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