Universidad de Alcalá: A Day in the Life

Cervantes AlcaláI went into my master’s program at Spain’s Universidad de Alcalá convinced I wanted to be an interpreter. A year later I was a passionate translator. Sitting on the edge of my seat in a conference booth interpreting for a Finnish researcher; sandwiched next to an African immigrant across from a Spanish social worker; carefully situated between a Spanish therapist and her American patient—all of these experiences were exhilarating. It’s just that somehow I took much greater pleasure in searching tediously for parallel texts as I translated a 50,000-word European Union bill.

The two internships I did as part of the master’s program couldn’t have been more different: half of my time was spent interpreting for a drug and alcohol abuse program through Madrid’s public health department, and the other half was spent working alongside two classmates to translate a lengthy bill for the Spanish Ministry of Justice on the exchange of criminal background data among EU member states.

Universidad de Alcalá logoInterpreting, though thrilling, made me nervous, while translating made me feel absolutely exuberant. One thing that good translators and good interpreters have in common is that both are perfectionists. I too am a perfectionist—for better or for worse. But studying translation and interpreting at the same time made me realize that I am the kind of perfectionist who cannot live with providing perfection on the spot. I’d much rather take my time finding the perfect solution—and that’s how I came to be a translator.

I began the Master’s in Intercultural Communication and Public Service Interpreting and Translation at Universidad de Alcalá (UAH) in 2013. The university, one of the oldest in Europe, is located in Alcalá de Henares, a small city in the autonomous community of Madrid. Among its claims to fame, Alcalá is the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes and the location of the printing of the first polyglot Bible.

The university has offered a master’s in translation and interpreting (T&I) since 2006, and the program has belonged to the prestigious European Master’s in Translation network (EMT) since 2009. The EMT vets universities based on certain standards for translator education, with the aim of improving the quality of the incoming workforce.

European Master’s in Translation logoThe master’s at UAH is geared towards students with undergraduate degrees in T&I or those who are already working as translators or interpreters, though these are not strict requirements for admission (proof of language command is!). Some of my classmates were already sworn translators or practicing interpreters, while others were medical professionals or paralegals. One was even a teacher who won a popular game show on Spanish TV and decided to spend the prize money on taking his career in a new direction. I myself had been working in education and public services (at a library in the US and later as a cultural ambassador for the Spanish Ministry of Education in Madrid) for three years leading up to my discovery of the field of translation and interpreting.

In line with the program’s goal of improving the skills of existing translators and interpreters, the curriculum is more practical than theoretical. The first half of the program consisted mostly of interpreting role plays and independent translation assignments that we reviewed together in class. Our instructors were all talented translators and interpreters whose engagement in the profession allowed them to offer us relevant insights and anecdotes, giving us a taste of the world outside the classroom.

The program is organized in cohorts based on language pair, with a considerable offering (all in combination with Spanish):

  • Arabic
  • Bulgarian
  • Chinese
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Romanian
  • Russian

Students with opposite A and B languages are placed together in each cohort (for example, there were native Spanish speakers as well as Americans and Brits in my cohort), and all students practice bidirectional translation. In my case, this meant translating not only from Spanish to my native English but also from English to Spanish. Translating in both directions allows students to offer better feedback and to benefit from one another’s strengths.  I found that translating into Spanish improved my Spanish writing skills and also deepened my knowledge of equivalent terms and concepts in both languages and cultures.

Some other noteworthy aspects of the program are:

  • An equal focus on translation and interpreting (T&I)
  • Separate units concentrating on the medical and legal-administrative settings, including classes on comparative law
  • Technology and research tool classes (CAT tools, corpora tools, glossaries and termbases)
  • Hands-on internships
  • A biennial conference on public service T&I with presentations by renowned researchers
  • A master’s thesis on the topic of each student’s choice
  • Visiting instructors, researchers, and trainers from other institutions: our class was lucky to host Marjory Bancroft of Cross-Cultural Communications, who gave a workshop on interpreting for trauma survivors, as well as Maribel del Pozo Triviño from Universidad de Vigo, who led sessions on interpreting for the police
  • Unique opportunities to collaborate with other university departments: we had the chance to interpret for a mock trial involving DNA evidence alongside law students
  • Optional intensive training in conference interpreting and the opportunity to interpret for the program’s biennial conference

And I could go on! But at the end of the day, one of the greatest values of the program was being humbled by my fellow students, many of whom have gone from classmates to lifelong colleagues and friends. I still collaborate with some of them on projects now that we are “real-life” translators and interpreters, even though we’re scattered across the globe!

If you live in or near Spain or have the ability to travel, I recommend checking out the university’s conference on public service T&I in early March 2017: 6th International Conference on Public Service Interpreting and Translating. The university is also hosting the 8th International Conference of the Iberian Association of Translation and Interpreting (AIETI8) that same week.

Images used with permission

Universitat Pompeu Fabra: A Day in the Life

By Carmen Salomón Hernández

pompeu-fabra.I finished my high school degree, including the International Baccalaureate Diploma in 2011 and decided to study Translation and Interpreting (T&I) because I love languages and reading, and through Latin and Greek, I learned to love translation itself. The lessons consisted mostly of epics and poetry texts. These two subjects taught me to be patient and to translate as if I were solving a puzzle where the original text contained pieces I had to put in place to reveal the beautiful final image. Like most degrees in Spain, Translation and Interpreting lasts 4 years.

Admission to most Spanish T&I colleges requires a specific test besides our university entrance tests. That’s why I had to make my mind up early enough not to miss any relevant test dates. I decided to go to Barcelona, mostly because I loved the city and it was the furthest from home I could reach without boarding a plane, so I applied to both Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF). UAB is outside the city on a beautiful campus surrounded by nature and forests. It offers a huge variety of foreign languages such as Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and Russian. The UPF Communication Campus, on the other hand, is located in the middle of modern buildings at the heart of Barcelona. It offers fewer options, with only Continue reading

MIIS: A Day in the Life

By Erin Teske

MIIS Branding Identity Change logoMy first glimpse of what it would be like to be a student at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, formerly the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS), came when I received the results of my Early Diagnostic Test (EDT), which is an essential part of the application process. The Spanish program coordinator suggested that I spend a few more months improving my language skills in a Spanish-speaking country before enrolling in the program. When I told her that I was already living in Argentina, she promptly sent me a list of Spanish grammar classes offered in Buenos Aires and even put me in touch with a former MIIS professor who happened to be living around the corner from me at the time. Continue reading

University of Lund: A Day in the Life

Who wouldn't fall in love with this beauty? Photo courtesy of Mikael Risedal

Who wouldn’t fall in love with this beauty?
Photo courtesy of Mikael Risedal

By Marie Eriksson

I came to Lund University for the first time as winter was just giving way into spring. My father drove me from one side of Sweden to the other in a shaky, noisy truck in a snowstorm, while I tried to sleep against the car window on an itchy old pillow. I arrived with no more than two hours of sleep and armed with a big bag of candy, ready to write my entrance exam for the translation program. Over the lunch break, my father and I walked around campus and discovered the university library.

I decided right then and there that I wanted to stay and study in Lund. Love at first sight is real.

Needless to say, I passed my entrance exam and I’m currently taking the program’s third of four terms. At Lund University, students can select to take a one-year or two-year MA in translation. I chose two years because the courses offered during the second year seemed interesting and because I thought writing the master’s thesis would deepen my understanding of translation studies and research. Of course, there are alternatives for students that aren’t interested in the master’s thesis at all, such as taking three of the four terms and not writing the final master’s thesis.

This program is focused on translation, so there are no interpreting courses or training. Although some assignments include translating fiction, the main focus is translating non-fiction texts. The program is offered entirely in Swedish, with Swedish as the target language and English, French, Spanish, Italian and German as source languages. English is offered every year, but the other source languages have been split up so that two are offered each year. New students can choose English, French or Spanish one year and English, Italian or German the next. It’s also a campus-based program without any online courses, which fits me perfectly.

The first year includes translation courses where the students work with texts from various genres. For example, we were given excerpts from a software user manual for one assignment, followed by a popular science text about sharks for the next assignment. The combination of this level of variety and the tips and tricks from the experienced teachers gave us the resources we needed to handle different genres and find appropriate sources for fact checking and terminology. We also studied Swedish grammar and text analysis, and were introduced to CAT-tools such as SDL Trados Studio and MemoQ.

In the second year, students can choose between translation from a second source language and translation from Danish. Since I don’t speak any of the other source languages offered, I went with Danish. I suppose I can’t say much about my skills, since I haven’t actually passed the course yet, but I feel much more comfortable with Danish now than I did three months ago. The teachers have given us a lot of information on how to think about the small but important differences between Swedish and Danish and how to familiarize ourselves with the language and culture in order to become better translators. The second course of the second year is focused entirely on translation studies and theory. This is partly because it’s an integral part of the program, and partly because it prepares us for the master’s thesis and our future work after graduation.

In addition, the teachers do their best to prepare us for life as a translator after graduation. They give us helpful pointers based on their own professional experiences and regularly send us information about interesting lectures or job offers. There was quite a fuss among them about the EU entrance exams for translators into Swedish earlier this year, and we even had a whole (optional) lecture dedicated to practical information about applying for and taking the exam. They also provide us with links to groups focused on advising and helping translators in the beginning of their professional life and give us information about translator associations such as the Swedish Association of Professional Translators (SFÖ).

I feel much more confident about my language and translation skills after these three terms. I’ve developed a much keener sense of the Swedish language as well, since the natural flow and sound of the resulting target text is such an important part of any translation. Thanks to my education and the network of friends and professionals I’ve developed during my time at Lund University, I now have a solid foundation for my future career.

About the author: Marie Eriksson is a current student of Lund University, in her second year of the translation program. She studied English, Swedish and Japanese at Dalarna University, and graduated from there with a BA in English. She spent four months in Tokyo between graduating from DU and going on to Lund University. She is considering studying medicine to get the skills needed for medical translation, and dreams of translating fantasy novels. Website: http://www.eovers.com


University of Maryland, College Park: A Day in the Life

By Sarah Caudill

UMD logoThough I live in Silver Spring, Maryland, just a short bus ride from the UMD College Park campus, I was teaching English in a small French town called l’Isle d’Abeau when I first heard about the brand new Interpreting and Translation program at UMD. I had interpreted and translated on an informal basis for friends and family, of course, but I hadn’t considered going back to school to learn to do either one professionally. Now, with the first year of the program completed, I’m so glad I decided to take a chance and join the inaugural class.

For someone coming into the program with no formal experience in the field, starting the first year presented many difficult choices. For starters, all incoming students have to decide whether to pursue a 1-year certification or commit to a 2-year masters degree. But most pressing was choosing between interpreting and translation. While I eventually decided to focus solely on interpreting, several of my classmates elected to take courses in both. Students must concentrate on one or the other, but the class schedule makes it possible, for example, to center your attention on interpreting while taking as many credits in translation courses as you feel comfortable with. In our first year, instructors worked with students to accommodate scheduling needs, while students did the same for them; after all, the instructors are actively working in the translation and interpreting fields in addition to teaching. While it does require some flexibility on all sides when an instructor has to change a class date because he will be interpreting at the White House that day, the benefits of learning from professionals with such vast experience and skill more than make up for it.

The program’s location is a great boon, first and foremost for its proximity to Washington, DC. Everything the capital city has to offer is accessible with a bus or metro ride. The instructors who work with students at UMD are high-level professional interpreters and translators in government offices and international organizations, so their insights and recommendations are always up-to-date. And when students are not in class, they can take advantage of the city as well. During the first year, we were able to have several informational and practice sessions at the International Monetary Fund and welcome guest speakers with a wide range of backgrounds, from the State Department to the Inter-American Development Bank.

UMD picOf course, the students themselves bring quite a variety of experiences to the program. The new program started out small, with fewer than twenty students in all, but within that group were represented almost half a dozen languages: Chinese, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Italian, with Korean and other languages set to make an appearance this fall. This made it difficult for some of us to find practice partners in our particular language combinations, but we found ways to work around it and learn from each other nonetheless. Because the first year had a strong emphasis on theory, we were able to have many of our courses together regardless of language combinations; in the second semester, we began specializing in either political or medical subjects. In between these theoretical courses, we then had classes with much smaller groups of students to study and practice interpreting or translating in our particular language combinations.

These small language classes varied in size during the first year, from the larger Chinese classes to the typically four-person Spanish classes, and even down to my one-person French class in the spring. I was a little nervous in the beginning about having a one-on-one class, but I was fortunate to have a fantastic instructor who put me at ease and helped me understand what I was really capable of. But as much as I learned from that class, it’s the ones with a small group of students that truly stick with you, because you pick up as much from your classmates as you do from the lesson. Some of my classmates came to the program, like me, without formal experience but eager to learn. Others were freelance interpreters who had already made a name for themselves in the interpreting world and were seeking to take the next step in their careers. I’ll never forget the first time I heard a classmate in the latter category interpret in class and I told myself: “That is where I have to be.”

This is still a new program, set to begin its second year this fall. That means a degree of uncertainty for our inaugural class – there aren’t yet alumni to share stories about how studying interpreting or translation at UMD has advanced their careers, and every course is a new discovery for everyone involved. But it also allows for flexibility and growth. Instructors and students can work together to shape what this program is going to be; what is important and what we need; what will work best for turning us into the future colleagues our instructors want in the booths with them. I know that all of us are looking forward to seeing what challenges the next semester will bring!

About the author: Sarah Caudill has recently completed the first year of her Masters of Professional Studies in the University of Maryland’s Graduate Studies in Interpreting and Translation program. She is focusing on conference interpreting with English (A), French (B), and Spanish (C). Her French and English skills have been put to use teaching English to middle school students in France and helping visitors in the US Capitol Visitor Center. She has a BA in International Studies from the American University, where she studied French, Arabic, and Spanish. She attended elementary school in French-speaking Quebec.


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/.


A Day in the Life: Bellevue College

This week we continue with our “A Day in the Life” series featuring an article written in collaboration by two current students from the Bellevue College Translation and Interpretation Certificate Program. We find it very interesting to hear the unique perspectives of students from completely different backgrounds who share a common goal: Applying their language skills to work through a new career path.

by Angelique Giachetti-HalmBellevue

About two years ago I decided to leave Paris, France to start a new life with my husband in Seattle, Washington. Soon after we got settled I found a job at a bilingual school.

Living and working in a bilingual environment has been a fascinating and eye-opening experience. It really made me realize that it takes much more than language skills to communicate efficiently and help people understand each other. Through daily interactions with teachers, students and parents I´ve become very interested in becoming a culture broker to help others bridge the gap of different worlds and mindsets.

Right after college, I briefly worked as a technical translator and an escort interpreter. At the time, I had faced the same communication challenges but only had a limited ability to efficiently address them. So I decided it was now time to look for professional training that would help me develop these specific skills.

I looked up online training and that is when I stumbled upon the Bellevue College Translation and Interpretation Certificate Program.

Bellevue College Translation and Interpretation Certificate Program

The BC T&I Certificate Program immediately caught my attention. Not only is the content of the program attractive, the main advantage is that it is designed for people who are working and want to gain skills at their own pace -just like me!

Two tracks are available: Translation and Interpretation (24 credits each). However, since both tracks share most of the core courses, you can pursue them simultaneously and get a certificate for both by just adding 4 classes (36 credits).

Classes meet in the evening (6 to 9pm) and you can choose if you want to sign up for 1, 2 or 3 classes a week, which allows you to manage your workload. They are taught by outstanding working professionals.

Language-specific classes begin the second year but you need to wait until there are enough students in your language pair to start. It takes about two years to complete the program.


Taking TRANS 101 is a great way to get started.

It is a mandatory 10-week class that covers the essentials of the translation and interpretation courses (5 sessions each).

You quickly gain skills through practice and carefully-selected reading materials. The small size of the group – there were 20 of us – and the amazing diversity of the students – 9 languages spoken!- allow you to learn in a comfortable and enriching environment.

Classes are taught by highly regarded professionals.

In my case, the interpretation part was taught by Martha Cohen, who is a certified Washington State Court Spanish>English Interpreter and also the manager of the Office of Interpreter Services at King County Superior Court House.

The translation part was taught by Teresa Ramón Joffré who is a certified English>Spanish biomedical translator with extensive knowledge and experience in the translation field.

Being taught by such professionals is a priceless opportunity. Not only do they share their precious knowledge and experience, but they also get involved personally and help you connect with people, resources or even jobs.

I am already looking forward to taking classes in the fall after a well-deserved summer vacation in France, Spain and Portugal! I will be taking Ethics and Business Practices of Translation and Interpretation. I really enjoy the fact that I can adjust my schedule to my needs, especially since I will be working more hours in the coming year.

by Taylor Elaine Allen

The Bellevue College Translation and Interpretation Certificate Program is attractive for many reasons: the caliber and cost of the program, the intimate classroom setting that promotes camaraderie with peers and teachers alike, and a flexible schedule that allows each individual to move at his or her own pace.

The program boasts a wide variety of languages offered. Initially you start with mixed classes, as the 100-level courses are not language-specific. I’ve worked with people from many different language backgrounds including individuals from Japan, Brazil, Portugal, Mexico, China, France, Russia, El Salvador and Spain, just to name a few. Each class meets once a week for three hours, accompanied by readings and individual and group work outside of class. Comparatively, some classes require more reading than others, but the content of the journals, articles and information that we are given access to is outstanding.

As Angélique mentions, one aspect of this program that differs from others is that you can pursue a certificate in both translation and interpretation at the same time. The majority of the 100-level classes are split into two parts: five sessions focusing on translation and the other five regarding interpretation. For those who are not sure which direction they would like to go, this is a fantastic opportunity to get a taste of what both sides of the industry have to offer. Additionally, the teachers in our program are exceptional individuals with an abundance of experience and knowledge in the T&I industry. I have been lucky enough to take two classes from one of our many top-notch teachers, Caitilin Walsh. Caitilin has been professionally translating since ’89, is an ATA-Certified French>English translator and is also the President of the American Translators Association (not to mention, a fellow Willamette University alumna, Go Bearcats!). As a student pursuing a career in translation, it is highly motivating and encouraging to be educated by such an array of awesome individuals who provide you with a multitude of support and want to see you succeed.

As of now, I have taken three of the eight required courses, the introductory class, Terminology and Research Management, and Ethics and Business Practices of Translation and Interpretation. Through these classes the students gain a number of practical skills, tools, documents and knowledge that we will surely find useful in our careers in the T & I industry.

Next up, Fundamentals of Translation along with Technology for Translators and Interpreters. I’m eager to get some hands-on experience with a few translation tools out there. And in November I hope to see many of you at the ATA 55th Annual Conference in Chicago, and I am looking forward to meeting those of you in the Spanish Language Division for some tasty tapas!

About the authors:

Angélique Giachetti-Halm graduated in Psychology with an M.A in Work, Organizational and Personnel Psychology – in 2011 (Erasmus Mundus Program – University of Paris Descartes / Universitat de Barcelona / Portland State University). She is originally from France and has lived in Seattle since 2012 where she married a local. She works at the French American School of Puget Sound as a Social Emotional Learning Program Coordinator. Ms. Giachetti-Halm speaks French, English, Spanish and a little Italian.

Taylor Allen graduated from Willamette University with a BA in Spanish and has a passion for learning languages, including Galician and French. She worked as a language and cultural ambassador through the North American Conversation Auxiliars grant program in La Coruña, Galicia, in Northern Spain for two years after college. Through Bellevue College, she is now pursuing a translation certificate with the intent of focusing on the well-established wine industry and the fast growing craft beer industry in Spanish-speaking countries around the world.

University of Massachusetts Amherst: A Day in the Life

By Jocelyn Langer

UMass Logo

The simple New England elegance of Amherst and the plain grey concrete walls of Herter Hall do not at first glance hint at the diversity of language and culture represented within the Translation program at the University of Massachusetts. A scientific look at the geology of the Connecticut River Valley, however, shows traces of its graceful mountains’ ancient connection to the coasts of Europe, and a brief encounter with translation students at UMass reveals that they hail from an even wider geographic area than the geological formations of the picturesque valley.

I was raised in Central Massachusetts, but most of my classmates come to UMass from much farther away, from China, India, Uzbekistan, Iran and Brazil. Our common interest in translation brings us together in passionate conversations and debates in an environment where we gain perspective on language and culture simply by interacting with one another. With this incredible group of students, I feel more at home than almost anywhere else.

Unlike many other translation programs, students in the M.A. in Translation Studies program at UMass are not grouped by language. Everyone takes at least two literature classes in each of their specific languages, but translation courses involve a mix of students working in any number of different languages. The result of this integration is that everyone – including the faculty – has an incredible opportunity to hear about translation practices and theories from many points of view. While it may be considered cutting edge for translation theories in English to be tested from non-Eurocentric perspectives, students at UMass routinely put theories to the test from diverse angles.

The UMass Translation Center works in collaboration with the Comparative Literature program, within the department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, to host undergraduate and graduate courses in translation and interpreting studies. On an undergraduate level –  and soon-to-be graduate level – the program offers a Certificate in Interpreting Studies. At the graduate level, many students enter the Comparative Literature program to complete a Master’s in Translation Studies, and some Ph.D. students also specialize in translation.

Working in the Comparative Literature program, students receive a strong foundation in literary translation. While some go on to specialize in technical translation, a background in literary translation gives UMass students a unique perspective on texts of all kinds. My own focus is medical translation. Through studying issues in literary translation, I have come to appreciate that medical translation can be similarly influenced by culture, politics, aesthetics, and history. I have also been inspired to question assumptions about non-literary translation and to see that translations of health texts can go far beyond the level of words and sentences.

The education that UMass translation students receive in literary translation should not overshadow the fact that we are also encouraged to think like scientists. One of the strengths of the UMass translation program is its strong emphasis on theory. Theory is not interpreted lightly, and students come to understand that a solid translation theory must withstand the same rigorous standards as any theory in fields like biology or chemistry. Immersion in an international environment puts these standards to the test, as students from India or Russia weigh in on whether a given theory is applicable to translation in their language.

Reflecting on the past year, I am aware that I have learned as much from what is explicitly taught as what is implicitly and informally conveyed. Without having actually enrolled in a Chinese course, I have gained perspective through talking with classmates about translation in China that changes my approach to the Spanish>English translation of medical texts. The reputation of world-renowned faculty at UMass certainly helps to attract an amazing group of international students to the program, and I feel that what I learn from my classmates is as rich as what I learn through assigned reading and lectures.

Though it may seem improbable at a university of nearly 30,000 students, lively discussions during small, in-person classes are a huge part of my learning experience at UMass. In an age when online learning is becoming the norm, the value of face-to-face interaction remains as strong as ever. I have taken one online course and one independent study in this program. Both classes gave me the flexibility to do some work from home instead of making an extra two-hour roundtrip to campus, but my in-person classes are well worth the long commute. In this program, faculty members get to know their students and encourage new ideas, creativity and originality. Translation is not taught through a prescriptive approach, and students learn to think critically, problematize concepts, ask questions and engage in self-reflection.

In addition to courses on translation theory, practice, ethics, history and technology, the program is home to a graduate student organization (OGSCL), a multilingual literary journal (mOthertongue) and several conferences. This spring I attended the International Shakespeare conference, as well as a Graduate Student Conference in Translation Studies, both hosted by our department. My classmates and I chaired panels and presented papers, receiving feedback from faculty and networking with future colleagues from around the globe. Our Graduate Student Conference was the perfect culmination to a year filled with personal growth and professional opportunities, surrounded by inspiring translation scholars and the rolling hills of the Connecticut River Valley.

About the author:

Jocelyn Langer has recently completed her first year in the Master’s in Translation Studies program at the University of Massachusetts, with a focus in Spanish>English medical translation and a special interest in holistic approaches to both health and translation. Her B.A. is in Community Health Education, and she has worked as a health educator and as the executive director of a holistic health center in Central Massachusetts. Jocelyn has studied Italian in Italy and Spanish in Mexico and Guatemala, and traditional holistic health practices in India and Nepal. 

Century College Translating and Interpreting Certificate/AA: A Day in the Life

By Kristen Mages

Century_college_logo_lrgIf you fall into the vast majority of the population, you may never have heard of Century College in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. I hadn’t either until I recently moved back to the Twin Cities and was looking into options for studying interpretation as a career. That’s when I stumbled upon Century College’s Translating and Interpreting (TRIN) program, which came highly recommended to me by my new boss at a large pediatric hospital in the area.

Upon further investigation, I discovered that the TRIN program at Century College has been around since the fall of 2009, when it was created to help meet the increasing demand for professionally-trained interpreters in Minnesota. As one of two such programs in MN, the Century program is unique in that it offers two tracks of study. There is a 30-credit certificate program and a 60-credit Associate in Applied Sciences Degree. All of the classes are language-neutral, meaning that any language pairs are acceptable for students, and all classes are taught in English. Language reviewers are brought in periodically each semester to give feedback to students on language specific elements of their work.

Classes are offered in a variety of formats. Some, such as Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced Skills of Interpreting, are evening classes held on campus. For these, you must be either physically present at Century or at one of its partner schools, located in more remote areas of MN, where an ITV (Interactive Television) system is used. Other classes are entirely online, and yet others are a hybrid of the two formats. By offering a variety of options, Century College enables students to study in the TRIN program while holding down a day job or raising a family.

As I already have a Bachelor’s degree, I opted for the certificate program. The first step was to take the introductory courses and get to know my classmates and professors. From the onset, I knew I had made an excellent decision in choosing Century. Classes were small, ranging from 7-20 students, which allowed for us to develop close relationships witheach other. One of the best parts of the program was getting to know the other students since we all came from such different walks of life. We were pretty evenly split between students born in the United States and students born in other countries, and the languages among us included Spanish, Arabic, Hmong, Russian, and Korean. Some of us had previous university education, even master’s degrees, while others had never attended college. Some of us had chosen translation and interpretingas our first career while many others were coming back to school after working in other fields or raising a family. And finally, some of us had already been working in the field as freelancers while others had never interpreted a single encounter. Despite all of these differences, we were united in one common goal: developing ourselves professionally so as to become trained interpreters ready to take on the challenges of a rapidly evolving field.

At the end of the first semester, each student is required to take the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) in both of their working languages. We were required to score an Advanced High or Superior on both in order to continue in the program. Admittedly, we were all a little nervous about this. But in addition to working on interpreting and translation techniques in our first semester, we had also learned how to be confident in our abilities.

As students advance through the program, they are able to personalize their courses to their particular areas of interest, whether that be inthe medical field, legal field, educational arena, or all of the above. In each higher-level class, the Century College language lab is utilized, and we quickly became proficient in using both recording programs such as Audacity and Sanako. Additionally, a frequent assignment is to go out, observe and interview working interpreters in the courtroom, classroom or another setting. We would then write reflection papers on what we learned and share it with our classmates.

Toward the end of the program, students are placed in internships according to what setting they plan to work in. This is an opportunity to gain some real-world experience and of course, a great way to connect with potential employers. Another wonderful networking opportunity for students is the Student Success Day TRIN panel that takes place every semester. For this event, the TRIN program brings in a panel of speakers to answer students’ questions and share the triumphs and challenges of being an active interpreter or translator in the field. These panelists include interpreter services managers at hospitals, hiring personnel from translation agencies, freelance interpreters running their own businesses, etc. Oftentimes this panel features Century TRIN program alumni who share their firsthand experiences of transitioning from being students to full-fledged professionals.

Besides the diversity in in the classroom, another excellent part of the program is the TRIN potluck at the end of the semester. You have never seen such a spread of food as everyone proudly brings a dish that represents the culture they most identify with! Plus it’s a great opportunity for all of the different levels of students to meet up and chat in a relaxed setting.

Overall, the Century TRIN program has been exactly what I wanted! It has enabled me to take my career to the next level by equipping me with the necessary tools to do my work well and connecting me with many valuable resources in the area. I feel more than prepared to fully enter the field after I finish my last semester this fall!


About the author: Kristen Mages is a TRIN student and freelance interpreter based in St. Paul, Minnesota. She graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, with a B.A. in Honors Spanish and Communications. She then went on to live and work in the Dominican Republic for two years. Upon returning to the United States, she began the TRIN certificate program at Century College. She has completed two semesters of the program and will take her final classes as well as complete her internship in the fall of 2014. When not studying, she works as a freelance interpreter in various medical and educational settings. She is a member of the Upper Midwest Interpreters and Translators Association (UMTIA) and NAJIT.

Kent State University: A Day in the Life

student-149643_640The Program

Kent State University’s Department of Department of Modern and Classical Language Studies is home to an active and vibrant translation department boasting bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD programs in translation and translation studies. Five languages are currently offered in the master’s program (French, German, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish), and one more will be added in Fall 2014 (Arabic). The master’s program, a part of the Institute for Applied Linguistics, is a four-semester degree consisting of several core language-specific classes that target three basic domains in translation (Scientific/Technical/Medical, Legal/Commercial, and Literary/Cultural). It also includes a variety of courses that are not specific to the student’s language but which are targeted at increasing other translator competencies, including skills with CAT tools, software localization, terminology management, and project management. All master’s students are required to complete a case study (thesis) during their final semester in order to bring together the skills they have learned.

Below you will find an overview from three current Kent State MA students of some of the main aspects of study, work, and life at Kent State. Enjoy!

Teaching Assistantships
Written by: Meredith Cannella

One of the aspects that makes Kent State University particularly attractive to prospective students is that it offers applicants the opportunity to fund their graduate education through teaching assistantships. The MCLS department currently employs 28 graduate teaching assistants who provide instruction for elementary through advanced foreign language classes. Assistants are expected to dedicate 20 hours of work per week to service in their departments, and the award provides them with full tuition and fees as well as a living stipend.

Kent State graduate assistants gain valuable experience in a variety of teaching strategies and approaches. As language courses are commonly given in the target language, assistants must quickly adapt to the challenges of teaching exclusively in their respective languages of study.  Not only do assistants learn how to conduct these types of courses effectively, but they are also exposed to the educational research behind specific teaching methods. Depending on the needs of each academic department, assistants can opt to be involved with more than just traditional classroom instruction and may be responsible for conducting conversation courses, extra help or laboratory sessions, blended learning courses or even online, distance classes.

Both the university and the foreign language department offer support for graduate assistants throughout the course of the academic year. Prior to the start of classes, all assistants are required to attend workshops that deal with the challenges unique to college teaching at Graduate Student Orientation and must also complete a rigorous orientation program within their respective language departments. Both faculty and staff are used to working with graduate assistants and are sensitive to the needs of new teachers, especially those who may be teaching in the American college setting for the first time. With the help of this extended support network, assistants often report that they are able to effectively combine their teaching and graduate studies.

International Students
Written by: Laura Gasca Jiménez

One of the characteristics that makes Kent State University unique is its richly diverse student population. Kent State has more than 2,000 international students from over 100 countries around the world. The opportunities for international students at Kent State are endless. The International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) office offers many opportunities for international students to meet other international and domestic students through various programs and events, from trips to Washington D.C. and Canada, to shopping trips, to country-specific cultural events. The ISSS advisors also help with cultural adjustments and other issues that international students may face living in a new country and being exposed to a new language and culture.

In addition to the ISSS office, the MCLS department, a comprehensive foreign language department providing a wide range of programs in foreign languages, offers the ideal working and studying environment for international students, which make up 40% of the school’s translation students. The MCLS department is well known for its Master of Arts in Translation degree as well as for its PhD in Translation Studies.

The courses given in the MA and PhD programs include both domestic and international students. As an international student you find that you become the voice and representative of your culture within the department, which is treated as a treasure by your professors and peers. In addition to its cosmopolitan classes, the MCLS department offers a variety of diverse cultural events. In the 2013-2014 academic year, for instance, it hosted two film series: the French and the Spanish and Latin American film series. These two film series provided students–both international and domestic–teachers, and the broader community unique opportunities to watch and discuss foreign films rarely available in the U.S.

Written by: Christopher Merkel

It goes without saying that the graduate programs in translation and translation studies at Kent State are top notch, but another unique aspect of the Kent State experience is the MCLS graduate student organization KentLingua. I was personally attracted to Kent State because it provides unrivaled instruction in technical translation and in the application of computer translation tools. But I assumed that I would simply spend a couple of years in Kent, Ohio learning what I’d gone to learn and then leave it behind me. As it’s turned out, however, I’ve become very involved with and invested in KentLingua, which has made my graduate studies at Kent State all the richer.

KentLingua supports Kent State translation students from before incoming students even arrive at the program through a peer mentor system geared toward easing new students’ transitions into graduate studies and to life in Kent. Once the academic year begins, the officers of KentLingua continue to act as liaisons between new students, faculty, other translation students, and the greater graduate student body. As the year moves on, KentLingua organizes a variety of social and professional events designed to foster community, collaboration, and the success of Kent State students both within and beyond our coursework and our programs. In addition to emails on upcoming events, KentLingua also sends out a regular newsletter that keeps students, faculty, and alumni abreast of MCLS-related activity. Its officers work to maintain and grow a collection of translation resources available to all translation students and works to organize discounts on computer tools. The organization also represents the department in the Kent State Graduate Student Senate, which provides students opportunities for domestic and international travel funding, whether for summer internships or for attendance or presentations at conferences, including the ATA conference in the fall.

About the authors:

Meredith Cannella is a first year master’s student in Spanish Translation and a graduate teaching assistant. She is simultaneously pursuing a MA in Audiovisual Translation from the Universidade de Vigo in northern Spain, where she worked as an English instructor within the Translation and Interpreting and Philology departments. Originally from New York City and a dual citizen of Ireland, she works from Spanish and Galician into American and European English.

Laura Gasca Jiménez is a second-year MA student in Spanish translation at Kent State University, where she also works as a Spanish instructor of two undergraduate courses. She is a native speaker of Spanish and Basque. She was born and raised in the Basque Country, in the north of Spain, and she completed a five-year BA degree in English with a minor in translation at Complutense University in Madrid. She is specialized in linguistics and education, and has experience in legal and literary translation. She will be starting a PhD program in Spanish Linguistics at the University of Houston this coming August.

Christopher Merkel is a first year master’s student in Japanese-English translation and the current president of KentLingua. He holds a BA in Japanese and a BA in International Studies from The Ohio State University and has worked as a copywriter, a copyeditor, a book reviewer, and a freelance translator. He likes to ride his bicycle and will be serving as a Japanese-English technical translation fellow at the World Intellectual Property Organization this summer.