Ten evenings per year

By Caitilin Walsh

mortarboard-309933_1280It doesn’t seem like a huge time investment, but they are some of the most demanding hours for me professionally. During those ten classes (five Wednesdays during the spring and fall quarters), I not only have to provide valuable theoretical and practical information to 18 energetic and motivated students, but my entire knowledge and 25+ years’ professional experience is laid open for them to explore and question.

Fifteen hours in a quarter—five three-hour classes—means that we cover a huge amount of territory in a condensed manner. Readings from various peer sources, in-class and online explorations of case studies (all drawn from real life), and a good dose of self-directed homework mean that only the most dedicated students will even finish the course.

The students in the Certificate Program of the Translation & Interpretation Institute at Bellevue College, just outside Seattle, Washington, hail from many places and backgrounds. And the students are what “make” the class. Past rosters have included heritage speakers, many of whom fed into the BC program from the Puget Sound Skills Center, (which houses a groundbreaking CTE program focused on providing heritage language speakers with basic interpreting skills, offering them a career path), high school teachers from local high schools (which are a great opportunity for reaching potential students through the American Translators Association School Outreach program), non-traditional (read “older”) students looking for a second career, as well as a few native English college graduates freshly returned from time abroad (who remind me forcibly of myself a few decades ago). One of these, who recently graduated from my alma mater, has penned a post about the BC T&I certificate program here. They are representative of the broad appeal of the program, which rightly reflects the many different paths to working in T&I in our country.

But the real trick to the class (one half of TRANS 106 Ethics and Business Practices of T&I; the interpretation half is held by an esteemed interpreter colleague) is not the information and experience I bring to the class. What makes this class so valuable to students is the peeling back of layers to lead them to understand what it is about them that is of value to their future clients, be they translation companies or direct clients, employers or contract awarders.

The real measure of the success of this program comes when I run into students professionally—at local translator events, national conferences, and in my private practice. These young women and men are making it, confident and prepared for the career paths they have prepared for themselves.

About the author: Caitilin Walsh is an ATA-Certified French-English translator who delights in producing publication-quality translations for the computer industry and food lovers alike. A graduate of Willamette University (OR) and the Université de Strasbourg (France), she currently serves as President of the American Translators Association. She brings her strong opinions on professionalism to teaching the Ethics and Business Practices course at the Translation and Interpreting Institute at Bellevue College, and to the T&I Advisory Committee for the Puget Sound Skills Center. When not at her computer, she can be found pursuing creative endeavors from orchestra to the kitchen. She can be reached at cwalsh@nwlink.com and on Twitter @caitilinwalsh, and you can read her blog on food and sustainability at http://irishchef.blogspot.com/.