This is the eighth Community of Christ World Conference at which Ervelyne Bernard has directed the translation work, helping prepare materials in three main languages and gathering interpreters – most of them volunteers – to help a crowd with people from parts all across the globe.
“It never gets easier,” she says with a smile. “The topics they talk about are never the same, and the church is always evolving in its own way.”
Daily bulletins and proposed legislation are printed in the three main languages – English, French and Spanish. Working in pairs, Bernard and other interpreters sit in booths above the Auditorium floor. They receive the audio feed on earphones (with an accompanying video feed) and relay in their respective languages to people who pick up a personal translation device to listen to. If a delegate speaks in a foreign language, an interpreter gets to relay in English for a majority of the crowd.
All the rapid-fire work can be akin to an air traffic controller, Bernard said, and necessitates someone to trade off with and fill in gaps.
“As an interpreter, the actual challenge, it's like a race against time,” Bernard said. Add in one's emotional inflections, and it's “sort of like acting and performing.”
“I also like to sit back and listen to all the languages.”
Besides the three main languages and Sign Language, Bernard's team this year also provides translations in Tahitian, German and Dutch. Visa issues prevented delegates from Russia and Brazil (Portugese) attending, so they didn't need translators there.
Visa issues are not new for the World Conference, and Bernard said the number of those who couldn't attend isn't much different than conferences past, “but it feels like more because it's such a political issue.”
The translation work has a few new highlights this year. An app is available to follow conference proceedings in each of the three main languages. Sign Language interpreters are now seen just on the large screens in the Auditorium, working from their own booth, rather than on the stage in front of a deaf group seated together. The French and Spanish interpretations also are available to church members viewing a webcast from anywhere, and they're also seen in closed captioning on the screens.
“We're discovering a lot of technology; a lot of new ways to communicate.”
Half-Tahitian and half-French by birth, Bernard grew up in Toulon, France and has surrounded by more than one language virtually her entire life.
“Music too – it started like that, listening to two different languages,” she said.
In addition to French, she is fluent in English and Spanish – she earned a master's in those two languages at the University of Toulon and is conversational in a couple other European languages.
“As soon as I graduated in 1995, I started traveling,” Bernard said. “It's one thing to learn the language, but to really use it, you have to be in that country.”
“When you're in Europe, you're in close proximity with a lot of languages.”
She moved to the United States in 1995, then worked in Cleveland for several years before moving to the Kansas City area in 2001. By then, she'd been hired by Community of Christ to be its first official French interpreter. Bernard then moved to Colombia 11 years ago when her work visa expired and there met her husband.
“Not through the church,” she said. “That was through scuba diving.”
Recently, they made another move to the French Polynesian atoll of Tikehau. There are Community of Christ members in those tiny islands.
“The best diving over there,” she said, leading her to mention yet another talent – scuba diving instructor.
As for the talent she employs for Community of Christ, Bernard credits tremendous help from Steve Shields and David Tickemyer. She also notes Lawrence Tyree, the church's director of translations, who focuses on written translation.
“I would be lost without them,” she said.