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Professor

John Balcom
Office
McCone Building M105
Tel
(831) 647-4190
Email
jbalcom@miis.edu

Professor Balcom began studying Chinese several decades ago in a summer intensive language course at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. He has lived and worked in mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, and joined the MIIS T&I faculty in 1993. As a translator he has worked in-house and as a freelancer. Balcom is a past president of the American Literary Translators Association and co-chaired the first Salzburg Global Seminar on literary translation. The recipient of numerous grants and awards, including an NEA Translation Fellowship, his translations have won or been nominated for many awards: his Taiwan’s Indigenous Writers: An Anthology of Stories, Poems, and Essays and There’s Nothing I Can Do When I Think of You Late at Night by Cao Naiqian both won Northern California Book Awards; his translation of Huang Fan's Zero won the Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Award; and his translation of Ya Hsien's Abyss was a finalist for the PEN Poetry in Translation Award and a Northern California Book Award.

Courses Taught

Courses offered in the past two years.

  • Current term
  • Upcoming term(s)

Builds on the theoretical and practical foundation laid in Introduction to Translation and introduces the translation of specialized subject matter. Depending upon the language program in which they are enrolled, students will be expected to acquire and demonstrate basic proficiency in the sight and written translation of either commercial and economic texts, legal texts, or scientific and technical texts. The amount of emphasis accorded to a particular topic will depend on the specific professional requirements of each language program. Course assignments will include readings, research, presentations, practice and graded exercises in sight translation, and practice and graded written translation assignments, including exercises in speed translation. Students will also be expected to take at least one midterm and one final exam. The frequency, nature, and structure of course assignments and examinations are largely at the discretion of the instructor(s) of record.

Prerequisite: Introduction to Translation or equivalent background.

Spring 2017 - MIIS, Spring 2018 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

This course is the counterpart to Advanced Translation I. Students are expected to translate texts of considerable difficulty and complexity and to cope with the types of operational challenges that are likely to be encountered in professional translation settings, such as working in teams or coping with multiple technologies. Emphasis is on particular text categories and subject-matter knowledge that are pertinent to current market demand for the specific language combination and direction in which the course is being taught. The frequency, nature, and structure of course assignments are at the discretion of the instructor(s) of record, but will include projects that simulate, as closely as possible, the professional translation environment, as well as at least one midterm and one final exam.

Prerequisite: Advanced Translation I or similar background.

Spring 2017 - MIIS, Spring 2018 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

This course is meant to provide the interested student with a practical and theoretical base for approaching the translation of literary texts (those in which style is as important as meaning).
The course will be a combination of lecture, discussion, and translation workshop. A number of readings will be required for discussion in class; several exercises meant to reinforce practical and theoretical points raised in class will also be assigned. Finally, each student will be required to translate a literary text, which will be discussed in class in a workshop fashion. The student will also be expected to read the work of his/her classmates and be prepared to comment on them.

Fall 2016 - MIIS, Fall 2017 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

Introduces students to the basic theory and practice of translation, both written and sight. Students will learn to apply text analysis, text typology, and contrastive analysis of their working languages to identify, analyze, and resolve translation problems while independently developing an efficient and rational approach to the process of translation. The appropriate application of electronic translation tools will also be introduced. Fundamental translation theory will be emphasized at the beginning of the course and will be conveyed in the form of assigned readings, lectures, class discussions, and independent research. In addition, course assignments will include practice and graded exercises in sight and written translation, utilizing authentic texts drawn from an extensive variety of text categories that include, but are not limited to, current events, general political economy, general legal documents, and scientific and technical topics for general audiences. As the term progresses, student time and effort will increasingly be spent on the preparation and evaluation of written translation assignments. Students will be expected to take at least one midterm exam and one final exam, to be assigned at the discretion of the instructor(s) of record.

Fall 2016 - MIIS, Fall 2017 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

This is the first of two complementary courses designed to bring translation knowledge and skills up to the level that would be required of someone working in a professional translation environment. Students will be expected to apply the knowledge and skills acquired during the first-year translation courses to produce translations that meet high standards for content, form, and presentation. A great deal of attention is given to subject matter knowledge and research, precision in text analysis and writing, and the appropriate application of translation technology. Some programs emphasize scientific and technical topics in this course, but others give considerable attention to commercial, economic, legal, and political texts, many of which have a technical component. The frequency, nature, and structure of course assignments and examinations are at the discretion of the instructor(s) of record. Students will, however, be expected to take at least one midterm exam and one final exam.

Prerequisite: 2nd-year student in good standing or equivalent background.

Fall 2016 - MIIS, Fall 2017 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

Areas of Interest

The translation of literary and philosophical texts; modern and contemporary Chinese poetry and fiction; Modernism and the international avant-garde; Taiwan studies; comparative literature studies; translation studies.

Academic Degrees

  • Ph.D. in Chinese and Comparative Literature, Washington University, St. Louis
  • M.A. in Chinese, San Francisco State University
  • B.A. in Chinese, Monterey Institute of International Studies
  • B.A in History, California State University, Fullerton

Professor Balcom has been teaching at the Institute since 1993.

Publications

  • Frontier Taiwan: An Anthology of Modern Chinese Poetry (contributor)
  • Wintry Night by Li Qiao (co-translator)
  • The City Trilogy by Chang His-kuo
  • Taiwan’s Indigenous Writers: An Anthology of Stories, Essays, and Poems
    (Winner of the 2006 Northern California Book Award) 
  • Driftwood (A book-length poem by Lo Fu)
  • An anthology of Buddhist literature (pre-Han to the present)
  • “Translating Modern Chinese Literature” chapter of The Translator as Writer, edited by Susan Bassnett and Peter Bush