Translation and interpretation certificate creates additional opportunities for bilingual students

The first time she remembers translating, Virginia Hernandez was about eight years old in the grocery store when her mom wanted to know the chipotle sauce ingredients to be sure it was the right one. Since then, she has helped family, friends, and even her friends’ families interpret and translate countless times. 

Once, as a sophomore in her high school’s medical academy, Hernandez was at a Quinceañera when one of her friends came with her mom to ask if she could translate a paper for them.

“Little did I know I would be breaking my head for a whole week,” said Hernandez.

The paper was a complex medical diagnosis for her friend’s grandmother. Hernandez said the language used convoluted medical jargon, but she did her research, took detailed translation notes, and returned with a translated version.

“At the end of my translation, I was able to tell my friend and their family that their grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Nowhere on that paper were the words ‘Alzheimer’s disease,’” said Hernandez, who is still proud of herself for taking on that challenge.

The translation and interpretation  program was created in 2017 for the many bilingual students, who already act as translators and interpreters for their families and friends, to get the formal training required to translate in a professional setting. Interpreting instructor and Ed.D. candidate Marc Tamarit-Galdón took over the program in 2018 and expanded it by adding certificate in medical interpreting in 2019, advanced courses in 2020, and together with Cynthia Arvallo, the certificate in translation in Fall of 2021.

Tamarit-Galdón explains, “Students are introduced to translation theory as they navigate real-world translation assignments, including medical and legal translations, engaging in project work for highly technical translations, building business models, navigating new platforms for subtitling, and dipping into culinary and literary translations.”

Then on the interpretation side, students delve into the practical aspects of community interpreting, focusing on medical and legal interpreting with a theoretical lens. 

Hernandez said she translated very literally when she came into the program. But as she has progressed, the program has helped her understand the rich detail involved to deliver the full effect of the Spanish meaning into English. 

“You have to be very cautious when selecting your Spanish grammar because you don’t want to give a different interpretation. This is why we end up with more words in a Spanish translation as compared to the source text.” Hernadez explained.

By combining academics with students’ language skills, they can use their skills on campus for programs such as Kind Kids in Need of Defense and Help on Wheels.

“For a bilingual student to know that their university recognizes their need and potential so directly as to create a program to meet and help expand their skill set is a massive confidence booster,” Cynthia Arballo, a translation and interpreting instructor, said.

Arballo said students sometimes work on community projects as well. They are currently translating three public service announcements for Fresno’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Action Committee.

“While many of our students have used these skills for years, they were unaware of how to deconstruct the process from an academic and theoretical standpoint,” said Tamarit-Galdón. “Achieving that ability, to not only translate and interpret but to understand the steps of that process deserves the formal recognition of a certificate.”

When students add the translation and interpretation certificate to their resume, it adds that critical skill to their major degree.  Not only does the certificate open more professional opportunities for recent graduates, but it also impacts the families and communities of the student through improved translation and interpretation. 

Arballo explains, “Our students take with them the furthered precision of expression in both written and spoken language. This means that they directly and positively impact their smallest community, those friends and family members for whom they’ve always translated and interpreted. That improved communication within their smallest circles then extends into the community at large.”

Hernandez agreed, saying, “The course personally has improved my speaking skills, especially at home, even my family members point it out. I now find myself at stores or public areas communicating with other Spanish speakers more appropriately. I have finally put to rest the slang Spanish language! I still have easy access to it, but hopefully, I don’t have to use it too often. By choosing to practice the proper form of the Spanish language, I can help others learn too. It’s a win-win!”

Now in her third year in the pre-nursing program, Hernandez hopes to someday serve the Spanish-speaking community as a bilingual nurse here in the Central Valley. Next year, she plans to take the TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills) test and then apply to a nursing program.

Posted by

Fresno State College of Arts and Humanities Communication Specialist

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