"What Did He Say?"
Some 200 translators facilitate cross-cultural communication.

By Sandra Blackmer, Adventist Review features editor

ontrary to what some may think, not everyone in the world speaks English, says Odette Ferreira, director of Adventist Colleges Abroad and coordinator of translation services at GC session. “Without the translators, large numbers of delegates wouldn’t understand anything at all that was being said.”

More than 200 multilanguage individuals from almost all world church divisions are volunteering their time and skills during the 11-day international event to make sure that delegates understand the devotional messages, business meeting information, and general 
programs. For the first time, translation also will be available for members of the Nominating Committee 
when considering election candidates for church 
leadership roles.

SPEAKING IN TONGUES: More than 200 volunteers translate GC session meetings into 11 different languages. PHOTO: Robert East/ANN
Including American Sign Language, the volunteers are translating into 11 languages using simultaneous interpretation. Translators “trade off” about every hour to keep energy levels and accuracy high.

“This is very intense work,” Ferreira explains. “Some speakers talk at such speeds that translators really struggle to keep up. And a sentence in Latin languages sometimes uses more than double the number of words that the same sentence in English does. Translating is not an easy feat to accomplish.”

Alfredo Garcia-Marenko, who has translated for numerous world church events for more than 20 years, agrees. Describing translating for events such as GC session as “challenging and energy-consuming,” he says, “When I’m in the translation ‘cabin,’ I always ask the Lord to keep me sharp, quick, and focused so I can accurately follow each speaker in spite of their various accents, cultures, styles, and oral communication skills. I attempt to translate everything being said because every word counts.

“It’s an exciting experience that I do with pleasure,” he quickly adds. “I realize the importance of the work.”

Putting the intensity of translation into perspective, Ferreira explains that when she used to work for the United Nations some years back, translators were changed every 15 minutes.

“Our people are fantastic,” she notes. “They’re very competent and do this work with joy. And other than volunteers who are official delegates, translators pay their own expenses—except for meals. They’re a dedicated group.”

Those needing translation services can pick up a radio at the Registration Desk. Each language is on a separate frequency. The radios are free to delegates; a $20 fee is charged to others.




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