News Release

General Conference Available to Arabic Speakers Worldwide

Arabic one of 93 languages available at April 3-4 broadcast

Arabic speakers throughout the world will be able to participate in the upcoming annual general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in their native language. Immigrants and refugees in many lands, along with natives of the Middle East, will be able to watch television broadcasts or stream the conference and simultaneously hear a translation in their own language.

Latter-day Saints hold a conference each April and October during which messages of hope and renewal in Jesus Christ are offered by Church leaders. The meetings are held in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the United States and are broadcast to most countries of the world. The conference to be held April 3-4 will be held virtually only, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The task of translating the conference messages in 93 languages is a tremendous undertaking. Somia, one of the Arabic translators, receives several of the talks two weeks to 10 days before the event. She works every day to get the work completed, including any revisions from the speakers. These revisions may change a few words or, perhaps, a great portion of the talk.

Until recently, live translators received these written texts two days before the event. They used the texts for preparation but had to be ready to adjust when speakers added spontaneous comments. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, conferences have been virtual, and translators like Somia have recorded the talks themselves. The recordings are then played simultaneously as the presenter speaks.

It is a challenge for Somia to have her translations ready on time, but she considers the work a wonderful experience. “It’s very spiritual for me,” she said. “I have the chance to read the talks before the world receives them, and as I work to get the translation right, I’m inspired by the words but also by the Holy Spirit that helps me to comprehend the meaning of the talks and render them in the best Arabic I can.”

Translators like Somia must be discreet and trustworthy. “Before general conference, I reveal to no one what the content of the talks will be,” Somia added. “And I love that time when I can privately ponder the thoughts and insights.”

Church translators are tasked with communicating individual concepts in another language, but they also have to focus on the spiritual meaning of the content. An Arabic translator named Ola, who lives in Europe, says, “Sometimes, I get so involved in the words that I lose track of the overall concept of a talk. But then a particular sentence will strike me, and I’m brought back to the spirit of what is being said and it’s that idea that stays with me.”

The diaspora of Syrians, Iraqis and other refugees has spread Arabic speakers across the world. They can listen to general conference by streaming the sessions on their computers, and they can choose the language they wish to hear. Ola related that sometimes during the pandemic, immediate translation has been difficult, and interested listeners have had to wait a week or two to receive conference sessions. But knowing that the translations will be available in Arabic is important.

Ghassan Seba is the leader of a Latter-day Saint group of mostly Iraqi immigrants in the San Diego, California, area of the United States. His group gathers at a Church building, and the members listen to the conference sessions together. He reports that the people he leads are learning to speak English, but it helps them to hear the doctrine taught in the language they have grown up with.

“Many concepts,” he explained, “are quite new to them, and even the best translations can be challenging for them to comprehend. But they grasp much more than they would if they were to listen to the talks only in English.”

One Latter-day leader in the Middle East reports that local members have not grown up anticipating general conference every six months. Hearing the conference sessions in Arabic, however, helps them build enthusiasm for the inspiration they receive, so they look forward to the next sessions.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is committed to providing materials to people in their native languages and has translated an increasing number of learning materials into Arabic in recent years. While the number of Church members in the Middle East is relatively small, the membership of Arabic speakers across the world is steadily growing. The general conference broadcast in Arabic will continue to play an important role in that growth.

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