In recognition of its many members for whom English is a second language, the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) goes to great lengths to make sure all attendees understand the business in their first language.

The 220th General Assembly (2012) mandated that essential business be translated into Spanish and Korean, and interpretation has been part of many past assemblies. Before the Assembly, all the business was translated into both languages and posted on the business website, PC-Biz.

While in Detroit, the daily General Assembly News carries selected translations in each language.

“I think we have come a long way, but we have a long way to go,” said Vilmarie Cintrόn-Olivieri, coordinator of the interpretation team.

Interpreters are present during committee meetings, plenary and wherever else needed.

The 221st General Assembly has three Spanish interpreters, three Korean interpreters, a Spanish translator and a Korean translator, all working to make sure both the written and spoken word are understood by all present at the Assembly.

Cintrόn-Olivieri has been serving as an interpreter since the 217th General Assembly in Birmingham, Alabama. Initially, she just served as an interpreter during formal procedures. At the 220th General Assembly, she was asked to serve as the coordinator of the interpreters at the General Assembly.

“We’re not interpreters by trade, just people that are fully bilingual and have served in this capacity before,” Cintrόn-Olivieri said.

While the interpreters are at work during plenary and committee sessions, translators Elizabeth Jackson and Sunkyoo Park are busy translating print stories, motions, resolutions, news releases and Directory for Worship revisions.

“The most challenging part is translating idioms, the way the culture says things,” said Jackson, Spanish translator with the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly. “You need to find the language for it in Spanish, if it exists.”

Park, Korean translator with PMA and OGA, agreed.

“When I am translating, sometimes I get a headache because it is so complicated. The most difficult is the cultural use of phrases,” he said.

Both Jackson and Park are also responsible for the Spanish and Korean translations of the Book of Order.

Read this article in Spanish.

Read this article in Korean.