Laura Burian
McCone Building M205
(831) 647-3554

Laura Burian is the Dean of Teaching, Learning, and Faculty Development, and professor of Chinese/English translation and interpretation.

After graduating from the Institute’s Chinese Translation and Interpretation program in the 1990s, Dean Burian moved to China where she first served as Assistant Director of the Duke Study in China Program, then became an in-house Chinese/English translator/interpreter/legal assistant in the Beijing office of a New York law firm, and then became a freelancer. She maintains a dynamic portfolio of high-profile translation and interpretation clients in both the public and private sector.

After joining the faculty at MIIS in 2000, Dean Burian received several prestigious teaching awards, including the Eliason Teacher of Excellence Award and the Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award. Her pedagogy aims to inspire her students to quickly become full partners in shaping the trajectory of their own professional and personal development.

Dean Burian is also deeply engaged in school service, having served two terms as Faculty Senate President, and is a frequently invited guest speaker at conferences, workshops, and seminars worldwide. Her TEDx talk (co-presented with MIIS Professor Barry Olsen) is often used as a primer for students, teacher, and end-users of translation and interpretation, and earned a TED “Editor’s Pick” accolade in 2014.

Laura Burian

Professor, Translation and Interpretation
When Burian decided to study language on a whim, it changed the course of her career and academic future.

My name is Laura Burian, I’m a professor of Chinese and English Translation and Interpretation here at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. I started studying Chinese in college pretty much on a whim because I was curious to learn about something that was completely different. And I really had no idea what I was gonna do if I mastered it with Chinese language skills.

I was living and working in Taiwan for a couple years after college, and I saw a sign with an advertisement for the institute. And I decided, lets give this a try, lets see if this is a good way to professionalize my language skills, and I had no idea what a wonderful and exciting career path it would take me on.

I ended up with opportunities as a freelance translator interpreter to learn about all kinds of different fields, to work with people ranging from CEOs of major corporations to the leaders in the government, leaders in the private industry, leaders in the film industry. Things of that sort that I definitely would not have predicted as a student.

And for me, coming back here to teach has been wonderful. It’s been great for me to be able to share my experiences with students and help them to see what they can do with the skills that they’re picking up here. And it’s also wonderful for me to see where the students actually take them.

For me when a student will call me up, and ask for mid career advice, and let me know everything that he or she has done, it’s very humbling, and it’s an honor to see that this time at the institute has started them on career paths. Whether they’re working as interpreters for major international organizations or as translators for really important documentation, it really is wonderful to see that they are making a difference and that they are excited about their careers.

So for me as a teacher, it doesn’t get better than that.

Courses Taught

Course Description

Introduction to Chinese/ English Translation and Interpretation
Students will engage in exercises to learn about and put into practice Chinese to English and English to Chinese written and speaking translation and oral interpretation. After 5 weeks the students will have general familiarity with the processes and practices of written and sight translation and consecutive interpretation. Very high proficiency levels (native or near-native) in both Chinese and English is required.
Instructor: Laura Burian, Dean and Professor of Chinese/ English translation and interpretation, Graduate School of Translation, Interpretation, and Language Education, Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
[Meets M.A. Special Topics requirement.]

Terms Taught

Summer 2020 Language Schools, LS 6 Week Session


Area Studies

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

Introduction to Interpretation

This multilingual course introduces students to the basic theories and practices of interpretation in general, and consecutive interpretation in particular. It lays a foundation for the development of professional skills in consecutive interpretation, emphasizing the ability to understand and analyze a message in the source language (SL) and convey it in the target language (TL) in a straightforward and clear manner. Students will hone their public-speaking skills by developing and delivering speeches, and will practice listening to and interpreting the content of passages of increasing length and difficulty as they develop the ability to identify, analyze, and paraphrase the meaning of an oral source text and establish logical relations between its components. Content is interpreted on topics from daily life, current events and the media, and general areas of personal interest to students.

Activities will include discussions and readings to build related knowledge, and practical hands-on exercises to build interpretation skills and to explore the purposes of interpretation and decisions made when approaching an interpretation assignment, including protocol, context, speaker intention, audience needs, public speaking, delivery, rhetorical style, deverbalization, equivalency, definitions of accuracy and faithful conveyance of the message, and the use of tools and resources to support interpretation.

Course assignments include readings and research on class topics, presentations, practice, graded exercises, and peer and self-assessment. The frequency, nature, and structure of course assignments and examinations are at the discretion of the instructor(s) of record.

This course is complementary to language-specific Introduction to Interpretation courses 8501 and 8502.

Terms Taught

Fall 2022 - MIIS, Fall 2023 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

Terms Taught

Fall 2022 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

Areas of Interest

Aware that today’s translation and interpretation markets are ultra-dynamic, Dean Burian is determined to maintain her professional currency so that she can share new insights and trends with her students. Her recent translations include corporate legal documents, academic papers, and texts on Chinese culture. Her recent interpretation assignments include conferences on new internet technologies and energies, venture capital, paleontology, human rights, education and government.


Dean Burian’s research interests center around expertise acquisition, effective pedagogical approaches for the consecutive and simultaneous interpretation classroom, and learner autonomy. As an accomplished violinist, she enjoys drawing on musical analogies to make her teaching more meaningful.

Academic Degrees

  • MA in Translation and Interpretation, Monterey Institute of International Studies 
  • BA in Comparative Area Studies, Duke University
  • Study abroad: National Taiwan Normal University, Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Nanjing University

Dean  Burian has been teaching at the Institute since 2000.

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