For his guest on Tuesday’s GA Live broadcast, host Fred Tangeman lined up Stephanie Vasquez, who as manager of Global Language Resources has numerous demands on her time at General Assembly — all coming her way in one of three languages.
“You have a very intense job,” Tangeman told Vasquez, “and you do it with extraordinary grace.”
Watch Tangeman’s conversation with Vasquez here.
GLR’s five staff members estimate they’ve translated more than a half-million words from English into Spanish and Korean for people who’ve requested it at the 225th General Assembly.
On Tuesday, Vasquez reminisced about her first assembly, the 221st, held in Detroit in 2014.
“It was a hard assembly,” she told Tangeman, one in which the denomination decided to go with volunteer interpreters who sat backstage and used devices similar to walkie-talkies to provide real-time translation. While some material, including overtures, “came to us ahead of time,” there wasn’t sufficient staff to translate the rationale that followed each overture. “We had too many words,” Vasquez said, “and we just didn’t have the staff.”
Currently housed in the Administrative Services Group, the work of interpretation and translation now being done by GLR “has stepped up in a major way this assembly,” Tangeman said.
“We’ve had to know and manage the technology for interpretation,” Vasquez said. An important training opportunity came her way from another organization that knows a thing or two about translation: the European Union, which offered up a three-month online session.
“It gave me the foundation for knowing how to manage the interpretation feature,” Vasquez said. “The reason the European Union is a pioneer is because they deal with more than 20 languages. So, the experience of the staff that runs it is a model for what we want to run here, only on a smaller stage.”
Tangeman then asked: How did Monday’s gathering of four committees meeting simultaneously in the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky, work out for interpreters and translators?
“Yesterday was challenging,” Vasquez said. It’s one thing to train people how to use Zoom, but it’s something else to train people on Zoom interpretation, she noted. She praised Vicente Guna, associate director for Office of the General Assembly technologies, for doing “an amazing job giving us access.”
“We had to promise we wouldn’t mess up any of the amendments,” she said with a chuckle, before adding, “Staff has to be diligent about what’s going on” down on the floor “so they can make the translation live.”
Tangeman said the committee he was following on Monday saw Spanish translation “happen very quickly” after a commissioner made a motion. “There has to be that level of trust between commissioners and GA meeting staff,” he said, inviting Vasquez to return to GA Live as the Assembly is drawing to a close “to see how it’s worked out when plenary comes around.”
Vasquez credited Racial Equity and Women’s Intercultural Ministries for supporting the work of the Rev. Miguel Angel Dros Lorenzo and the Rev. Iris Dalila Santoni Ortiz, who as primarily Spanish-speaking pastors are both helping to lead GA committees.
With help from the ministry area, “They can say, ‘I can take on this role and I can actually do this,’ and I feel that’s very important,” Vasquez said. “We can help provide documents and information and resources in their own language, but [RE&WIM] can provide training to make them feel part of the whole denomination, support that office specifically gives them.”
“We want to make sure we give them what they need at the assembly, and give them a sense of peace, letting them know everything is going to be OK,” Vasquez said.
GA Live is broadcast at 10 o’clock each morning of the 225th General Assembly. Watch it each day here.