Tuesday, September 9, 2014

General Conference Talks in Other Languages

Several news media outlets such as the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune report that beginning this October General Conference, the Church will permit speakers to give their talks in their native language. Cited as an example of the internationalization of the LDS Church, this change in policy has been long overdue and may improve the perception of the compatibility of the Church with other cultures and societies. Additionally, this development may indicate that additional progress will be made with the calling of General Authorities who do not speak English at all in the coming months and years ahead.

The Church has made some significant progress translating its General Conference proceedings to a wider audience. In 1988, General Conference was translated into only 12 languages (see article). Currently the Church reports that proceedings are translated into 94 languages, although only 70 of these languages can be accessed via the Church's website.

Utilizing English as the Church's language for administration has significantly simplified its operations, but has also conveyed a sense that it is Ameri-centric and reinforces centralization. I am curious what steps the Church will take to translate General Conference talks given in the speaker's native language into languages other than English. I imagine that these talks will likely be translated first into English, and then into other languages. The Church has utilized Spanish translations for many years to translate talks into Amerindian languages such as Aymara, Q'eqchi', and Quichua, and this pattern would likely be easiest and most efficient for translation. However, like a game of telephone, nuances and deeper meanings may be lost through this process, which creates challenges for maintaining doctrinal purity and ensuring translations are accurate.

On a topic related to translation work, the Church recently updated its statistical page on mormonnewsroom.org and now reports 189 published languages. This new total is 13 higher than the total provided in 2011. Unfortunately, the Church has not published a comprehensive list of all languages into which it has translated at least one church material. If anyone has information on what languages have recently had materials translated, please comment. See here for my missiology encyclopedia entry on "Languages with LDS Materials."


Mike Johnson said...

The Asouyeboa 2nd Ward, Kumasi Ghana Bantama Stake, was created on 7 September. There are now 9 wards and 2 branches in the stake:

Abuakwa Ward
Asouyeboa 1st Ward
Asouyeboa 2nd Ward
Bantama 1st Ward
Bantama 2nd Ward
Kronum Ward
Meduma Ward
Nwamase Ward
Suame Ward
Atafoa Branch
Nkoransa Branch

The Betim 2nd Ward, Contagem Brazil Stake, was created on 24 August. There are now 7 wards and 1 branch in the stake:

Barreiro Ward
Betim 1st Ward
Betim 2nd Ward
Contagem 1st Ward
Contagem 2nd Ward
Jardim das Alterosas Ward
Vale do Jatobá Ward
Riacho Branch

MainTour said...

Who will have the honor to be the first G.A. speaker to present at least 90% of his GC talk in his Native language.

I'll let you take three guesses.

Michael Worley said...

Uchtdorf, Saturday Morning?

Michael Worley said...

Church membership is "more than 15.2 million, as of the end of July. "


That is vauge.

Michael Worley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Worley said...

Elder Nelson also said:

“There were 27,000-plus missionaries in 1984. Before the announcement in 2012 about the age change, we had 58,000 missionaries. Now we are over 87,000. We expected a big bump. We also expected a drop after two years’ supply of men were taken care of in one year and more than that for the women. But we’re not seeing that drop that we had anticipated because these missionaries are having such a fabulous experience that they are telling their younger bro"

Unknown said...

Michael, two spontaneous thoughts about things you shared. First, mid-year numbers are always to be taken with a lot of caution. "More than 15.2 million" includes a realistic number window of 100,000 (99,998 to be exact). Inaccuracies include delays in creating membership records as well. What you read might say "end of July", but actually it probably means something like "end of April". Maybe not exactly, but I would not be surprised if there was an approximate delay of up to three months in those numbers. If you work it out mathematically and with the numbers for convert baptisms, which supposedly increased by 15% during the first half of 2014, it works out quite well with a three-month delay. That`s also the reason why membership numbers are published during or following April Conference and not in a press release on January 1. I would not be surprised to see a net membership increase of 400,000 this year.

Second, I feel like with the age change announcement nearing its two-year anniversary, young prospective Elders and Sisters have become more prepared for their service. As someone who was really closely associated with a lot of YSAs in Utah because of my calling around the time
of the age change, I might have seen a bit more than others that this first generation of 18-year-old Elders and 19-year-old Sisters was faithful and energetic...but not necessarily as spiritually prepared as they could have been with more time to do so. Many left a couple months after a point in their lives where they had never thought about going on a Mission (yet). Don`t get me wrong, the majority of those young Elders and Sisters were fabulous Missionaries, but it probably took them a bit more training to get going. Hence developments such as the relatively miniscule increase in convert baptisms in 2013, etc.
When it comes to efficiency and hitting the field running, this second generation of wave Missionaries will be much more prepared and capable. And, as you mentioned, because of brothers, sisters and peers, many know what they are getting themselves into and thus can prepare accordingly.

Michael Worley said...

Elder Nelson also said"“There were 27,000-plus missionaries in 1984. Before the announcement in 2012 about the age change, we had 58,000 missionaries. Now we are over 87,000. We expected a big bump. We also expected a drop after two years’ supply of men were taken care of in one year and more than that for the women. But we’re not seeing that drop that we had anticipated because these missionaries are having such a fabulous experience that they are telling their younger brothers and sisters to get ready to go on missions."

MLewis said...

I've been looking forward to this policy change for a long time, but it will probably going to require some adjustment by the Conference interpreter team. English will definitely be the relay language (no need to find Spanish to German interpreters anytime soon), just as Matt pointed out that the Church already uses Spanish as a relay language for some of the Amerindian languages. The problem is our current interpretation team is really good at going from English to Spanish, but not necessarily the other direction. They'll want a native English speaker to be interpreter if possible when going into English, just as the preference has always been a native Spanish speaker when going into Spanish. There are only a handful of languages that we really need to worry about (and maybe not more than one or two in any given year), but we'll probably need to add someone to the team for each speaker language that specializes in going into English.

A lot of people might already now know this, but BYU's law school hosts an international symposium on law and religion every October right after General Conference. The symposium starts Sunday night after a couple hours after the last session of Conference and goes through Wednesday. There are anywhere from 40-70 delegates, close to half of whom present in a language other than English. In order to accomodate, the law school borrows the conference interpretaton team. (Popular languages at the symposium usually include Spanish, Arabic, Russian, and Chinese...i.e. the big international languages, but not necessarily languages big in the Church.) English is the relay language at the symposium, but the interpreter is almost never a native English speaker, which means even the best typically speak with an accent and sometimes with non-standard English, increasing the difficulty of the relay to a third language.

I remember at one session I attended a couple years back, a delegate (I think from Senegal) was speaking, and the French interpreter accidentally translated the word for "religion" as "cult" when referring to Islam and other recognized religions in the delegate's country. An understandable mistake if you speak French, but most of us listening to the English headsets didn't, and I hate to think how that may have been interpreted into a third language. This won't be too much of a problem if Conference speakers stay on book, as a decent rough translation may have been prepared ahead of time (my friend translated Hmong for Elder Perry's conference Address once and confirmed the interpreters get advanced copies of the talks they're assigned to), but if they go off book, the interpreters just have to go with the flow.

I'm sure the Church already knows all of this and is planning accordingly. Either way, it will be exciting.

MainTour said...

Mike - As far the drop not appearing - I am aware of lots of young men that are still waiting to turn 19 before going. A big part of the surge is that more young women are serving now.

Has anyone analyzed this trend by gender? Was their surge in YM or was it all YW? Has either gender seen a drop in numbers?

Mike Johnson said...

The Traverse Mountain 12th Ward, Lehi Utah Traverse Mountain Stake, was created on 7 September. There are now 10 wards in the stake:

Traverse Mountain 1st Ward
Traverse Mountain 2nd Ward
Traverse Mountain 4th Ward
Traverse Mountain 5th Ward
Traverse Mountain 6th Ward
Traverse Mountain 7th Ward
Traverse Mountain 8th Ward
Traverse Mountain 9th Ward
Traverse Mountain 10th Ward
Traverse Mountain 12th Ward

Mike Johnson said...

I think there was a modest bump in young men and a much larger bump in young women.

I might also add that very few of those who decided to go after conference 2 years ago have actually returned. It takes a few months to get the papers in. And then it takes time between call and entering the mission. So, those that decided to go without having previously prepared probably didn't make it to the field for 5-6 months minimum. The Elders would not have completed two years and the first of the Sisters might have.

And many that decided to go didn't go until the end of the school year.

More importantly, I think many decided to go on missions that had not thought they were going or weren't even planning on it.

My daughter now has her file opened. She is a freshman in college and hopes to go next summer. She had not been thinking about going on a mission, but decided to do so weeks before going off to college.

So, I think we are still going to see an increase for a time, and when it falls off, it isn't going to drop to the previous level. More young men will go than would have, but far more young women will go.

It used to be in seminary the kids would talk about whether young men would soon go. Now it is more eminent and a lot of young women are engaged in the same conversation about themselves. The excitement of 18-year-olds feeds excitement of 16-year-olds.

John Pack Lambert said...

My guess would be that the process for the interpretation of talks for live broadcast and for the translation of talks for official publication may be different.

The difficulty of double translation may in fact be why the standard of all talks being given in English was held to.

It was not until 1946 that the endowment was given in a language other than English and not until 1960 that General Conference was translated at all.

phxmars said...

In past general conferences, several general authorities have recorded their talks in Spanish and had them played while giving their talk in English. It limits spontaneity some what, but it was interesting. This was on my mission in the early 90s.

I wonder if the interpreters will already have their talks written out in Spanish (or any other language) and can translate from that listening for any variance from the prepared manuscript.

John Pack Lambert said...

Doesn't look like anyone guessed Elder Wong and Cantonese.