Two weeks ago, we held Stake Conference at church. For those not of my particular religious persuasion, that is a twice-annual, joint meeting of area congregations. In our “Stake” there are 15 congregations, organized by geography, which makes us a relatively large Stake (about 5500 church members). Due to our largesse, we decided we would try webcasting our meeting over the Internet to two other chapels in the Stake, enabling the entire Stake to meet at once and greatly reducing the need for travel for those who live in the eastern congregations and the organizational pain associated with holding multiple sessions of conference in one day.
Due to my calling as the “Stake Technology Specialist” – the job was mine to do the webcast. But webcasting isn’t what this blog post is about. For those who’ve been following Facebook (or me in real life), you’re probably sick of me talking about the webcasting thing. Understandable. No, this post is about a group of people I got to know while webcasting – and a gift they possess that I didn’t really understand until now; the Spanish language translators. This group of people simul-translated the meeting, as it was occurring in English, into Spanish.
While people thought I was impressive for being able to technologically offer both languages, I was more impressed with their ability to actually do the translating. Since I know Portuguese (and can understand a good deal of slowly-spoken, church-related Spanish) I spent a good portion of the meeting listening to the Spanish side of the webcast rather than the English side. I was incredibly impressed with these people’s ability to do this great service for the Spanish-speaking people of our Stake.
As I was considering the incredible talent they must have to hear a new sentence in English at the same time the speak the last sentence in Spanish, I remembered a skill I learned in my band days called “circular breathing”. Circular breathers are an impressive set of musicians who can sustain a note with the wind trapped in their mouth while they breathe through their nose and refill their lungs. It’s a pretty special skill that is quite difficult to do with finesse.
This was the exact skill these translators have. They seem to be able to hear in one language, process it in their brain, and repeat it in Spanish – all in real time! I can’t imagine how they do it, and with such incredible fidelity. Even obscure poetry and cultural anachronisms they seemed to translate with ease.
I wish I knew their names or was able to take a picture of them in action (I was a little preoccupied with my own video production responsibilities), but I suppose – like most service in the church – they continue to be largely unnoticed, except in the recesses of my little blog.