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Language is the Bridge: The Translation and Interpretation Studies Certificate

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Image of Sam the Minuteman at the University of Massachusetts, with speech balloons saying Translation and Interpretation in multiple languages

Besides writing, one my passions in life is learning new languages. I currently speak three fluently, and am basic in another two. My goal in life is to be fluent in all five by the time I’m thirty-five.

Throughout my college career I’ve come to realize that, as big a challenge as it is, just learning a bunch of languages is not enough. A big part of my journalism education is realizing that what we do can have a great impact on society, so, when it came to choose a minor or certificate, I realized I wanted to carry that idea with me and combine it with my passion for languages. After some research, and a serendipitous sighting of a flyer in Herter Hall, I found out that the University of Massachusetts Amherst has a certificate program in translation and interpretation studies.

What’s the program like?

The translation and interpretation studies is part of the comparative literature department at UMass Amherst. Aside from teaching students how to carry meaning from one language to another, the program goes beyond that and teaches students all the necessary skills to thrive in this field. 

This certificate shows you just how important and underrated translating and interpreting is, and the amount of skills necessary to be a great professional in the field. It’s not enough to be fluent in two or more languages — good translators and interpreters also need strong skills in cultural awareness, multitasking, and general and specific knowledge, among others.

What are the requirements?

Because the certificate will require you to work both in English and at least 1 more language frequently, the program requires students to take at least 2 courses at the 300 level or above in a language other than English (you can use a semester abroad to substitute 1 or both of these classes). The program also requires students to take 2 courses at the 300 level or above in writing, and the 2 translation courses (CompLit 481 and CompLit 482).

What are the classes like?

The translation courses are really amazing, because they truly prepare you for the working world. The first translation course, CompLit 481, is mostly about theory, presenting you with the most significant theories within the translation and interpretation field. However, practice also plays a significant role in the class. In CompLit 481, you get the chance to role-play different interpretation scenarios, do simultaneous interpreting, and translate different types of text.

In CompLit 482, students study all about service learning, and the different requirements each field has. The fun thing about this class is that students need to find a community service partner, for example a nonprofit service organization, and work with them throughout the semester. So we get a real chance to put all the theory we learned into real-world practice.

Aside from these two translation classes, UMass Amherst offers a variety of classes, including: medical interpretation (which can be used for official medical interpretation certification for working at hospitals), translation and interpretation technology, and an upcoming course called working with trained interpreters (coming in Summer 2020).

What’s the best part about this program?

What I love about this program is that it’s very dynamic, and you can combine the certificate to just about every field you might be interested in. I currently work as a Spanish and German editor at the Daily Collegian, where I get to combine my translation, multilingual, and journalism backgrounds in new and interesting ways. But it can extend way beyond that, because everybody in this world speaks some kind of a language (including all the different sign languages), and we all need to communicate with each other. So translators and interpreters will always be necessary everywhere.

We live in a multicultural and multilingual country, where oftentimes we’re made to believe that speaking or not speaking certain languages puts us in different positions of power. I strongly believe that languages should be bridges, not barriers, and this certificate allows me to put that philosophy into practice and help change the world.

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