| by Charles Cai and Xiaohui Hu

News Stories

Samosas at fall forum
Students sample samosas, one of several world cuisines served up by local restaurants at the Fall Forum in November.


This year’s annual Fall Forum was tastier than most, fully embodying the theme “Food: A Shared Language.”

Co-organized by the Translation and Interpretation and Conference Interpretation programs, the Fall Forum gives second-year students who are about to enter the workplace practice live interpreting for a large event. 

New this year, the organizing committee teamed up with the student-led UMG Food Club to bring local Monterey restaurants to sell discounted food at the event. Seven local restaurants participated, offering Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Mediterranean, and more.

Attendees are welcomed to fall forum
Fall Forum attendees are welcomed to the event.

“Seeing everyone happy and well fed is what our organizing committee wished for the most,” said Jack Ren, chair of the event’s organizing committee and a conference interpretation student.

A past challenge for the event has been turning out students beyond the Translation and Interpretation Departments, which is what sparked the food idea. It worked, with 200 students attending.

The event was fully planned by students.

“The challenge was paying attention to details,” said Xinyi Zhu, a translation and interpretation student who served on the organizing committee. “This required close attention to everyone’s strengths, responsibilities, and availability. Coordination was crucial, as everyone on the committee was busy.”

“Our success was only made possible through continuous efforts from the organizing team and the enthusiastic assistance of many volunteers,” said Ren.

The opening ceremony kicked off with speeches from three Middlebury Insitute interpretation professors, with students providing simultaneous interpretation in Chinese, French, and Russian.

“During meals, we not only fill our stomachs, but also gain insight into and learn about different cultures through food,” said Laura Burian, dean of teaching, learning, and faculty development, who delivered the opening address in Chinese.

Dmitry Buzadzhi shared insights  in Russian on the role of bread and wine in the Bible, while Stephanie Cooper, a professor of French-English interpretation, discussed in French the role of food in French culture.

Attendees then broke out into 10 separate symposiums, each featuring speeches by students and professors on various themes. Second-year interpretation students provided consecutive interpretation. Each group consisted of three speakers, three interpreters, and one moderator, featuring six languages: French, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, and Korean.

During these symposiums, speakers from diverse cultures shared reflections on food, from culinary history to the role of food in traditional festivals. Some even shared delicacies from their hometowns.

students listen to interpretation
Students listening to simultaneous interpretation.

Conference interpretation student Ge Yan not only was secretary of the organizing committee but also served as a speaker and jumped in at the last minute as an interpreter.

She discovered another secret ingredient to a successful gathering—humor.

“During the final session, despite the late hour, engaging and humorous presentations by previous speakers lightened the atmosphere,” said Yan. “My speech also incorporated humor, which was challenging for the interpreter, which got the audience laughing. Although not the most profound, our humorous discussion was positively received, prompting me to encourage speakers to infuse more humor into their presentations.”


A longer version of this post was originally published in Chinese on the Middlebury Institute Weibo and WeChat accounts. Translation provided by translation and localization management student Minting Lu.

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