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New University Course in Translation and Interpretation
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New University Course in Translation and Interpretation

By Amy Russell

A report on Karl Kaussen's presentation at NCTA's February general meeting

At the general meeting of February 22 Karl Kaussen unveiled a new UC Berkeley Extension certificate program in translation and interpretation (T&I). A description of the program appeared in the February edition of the Translorial, but this was the first opportunity for NCTA members to raise their questions and comments about the program in a forum-like setting.

The purpose of the new T&I certificate program is two-fold: First, it seeks to train professionals for entry into the field of translation and interpretation. Second, it aims to set up standards of proficiency in various specialties within the field of T&I. The hope is to introduce a credential system covering both translation and interpretation.

The program will provide training for translators and interpreters in a total of 41 languages. Some of these languages are not offered at UC, and for those the program will draw on the resources of New York University.

The initial course offerings are scheduled for the fall of 1997, with full implementation of the certificate program planned for spring 1998. Students applying for the program must have a B.A. degree or the equivalent, and must pass initial proficiency exams in English and a foreign language.

Students in the certificate program must take certain core courses and may choose from a variety of electives. The core translation courses currently being proposed by the Advisory Committee include basic translation, sight translation, literary and cultural translation, history of translation, computer assisted translation, and translation of business, legal, and technical texts. Basic interpretation courses will cover parliamentary procedure, comparative terminology, public speaking, California court procedures, and intercultural communications in hospital settings, to name just a few. Terminology courses will also be an important part of the core curriculum to introduce students to the vocabulary and basic concepts of disciplines such as anatomy, physiology, chemistry, medical instrumentation, computers, etc.

All students are required to specialize in a particular field, such as legal, medical or technical translation or interpretation. This is in marked contrast to many T&I programs that follow a generalist approach, to the dismay of many students who graduate only to find that the market has little need for generalists.

The certificate program is aimed at established professionals as well as newcomers to the field of T&I. Professional translators and interpreters may participate by taking elective courses outside the certificate program. These courses can be used to satisfy the continuing education requirements of the California Judicial Council for court translators/interpreters.

Reactions on the part of NCTA members to this new certificate program vary. Some view the program as a redundancy, considering that we already have the ATA accreditation exams, and other certification programs for court interpreters in a number of languages. The opposing view holds that the ATA exams do not include all languages commonly used in the field, and their true value as measures of a translator's competence is still a topic of debate. Moreover, a translator's accreditation through the ATA ends if the member does not continue to pay membership dues. A certificate earned through the UC Extension program would be valid for life.

What we should remember in our discussions is that the intent behind new UC Extension certificate program is to educate and train translators and interpreters, not to serve as another testing mechanism. Many of the details regarding this new program are still in the planning stages, and comments from NCTA members are welcome.

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