From Process to Product: Real-World Translating in the Classroom
Middlebury Institute Professor George Henson is an established translator of literature from Spanish into English. He is passionate about providing his students with practical training and experience through real-world projects for actual clients that they can add to their resumes before graduation. He shared his approach to teaching with the Career Insights Blog.
At the Middlebury Institute, students do much more than just practice translation in their courses in the Translation and Interpretation degree program.
“Translation” is what Princeton professor David Bellos calls a “two-headed beast.” It refers not only to what the translator does, i.e., a process, but also the “product,” what at MIIS we call a “deliverable.”
Every semester, I provide real-word opportunities that allow students to move beyond translation as process and to translation as a product. In this way, students receive real-world experience, working under real-word conditions.
Some recent examples include:
- Last semester, thirteen students, both first and second year, translated a variety of texts for the international journal Latin American Literature Today. After assigning the texts, students were responsible for working directly with editors.
- In 2020, first-year students co-translated a chapter from Languages in the Crossfire: Interpreters in the Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939) for international publisher Routledge, which will be published in June of this year.
- In the fall of 2018, first-year students collaborated on the translation of a Twitter novel, written by Mexican novelist Alberto Chimal, titled City X: a Novel in 101 Tweets. Not only was their translation live-tweeted on Halloween, it was then published in Latin American Literature Today.
- Recent graduate Rachel Echeto MATI ’20 translated, as a semester project, for a report titled Good Foreign Policy Makes for Good Domestic Policy for the Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales (Mexican Council on Foreign Relations), which appears today on the Council’s website.
- After taking the course in literary translation, which I co-teach with Professor Carles Andreu, second-year student Michelle Mirabella MATI ’21 spent her summer translating a short story by Chilean writer Catalina Infante Beovic, which was later published by World Literature Today.
No matter what the deliverable is, students are given the opportunity to work directly with clients and editors, following real-world practices and schedules, meeting real-world deadlines. These experiences provide our students with an advantage in securing internships and a leg up in an increasingly competitive job market.