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Professor of Professional Practice

Lijian Cai
IIRC Building 8
(831) 647-4611

Before teaching at the Institute, Professor Cai had worked for 26 years as a translator, reviser, editor and senior reviser at the United Nations Secretariat in New York. A regular contributor to the Chinese Translators’ Journal, he is also the author of three books: Document Translation (Tsinghua University Press, Beijing, 2016), A Practical Guide to Upgrading Translation Competence (Beijing University Press, Beijing, 2014) and Effective Translation (Foreign Language Press, Beijing, 2011). 

Professor Cai has been extensively involved in Chinese-to-English and English-to-Chinese translation projects and translation evaluation projects at the national and international levels. He has also been regularly involved in training professional translators and college translation instructors. His experience in translation covers a wide range of areas, including business, finance, science and technology, and literature, as well as political, legal and social issues.

Professor Cai sees translation as a delicate art, a balancing act between an obsession with a maximal degree of faithfulness to the original text and a healthy dose of creativity necessary to re-code the message in a way that it can produce a similar effect on the target language reader as it does on the source text reader. His courses are practice based, and principles of translation are explained in case analyses.

Courses Taught

Courses offered in the past two years.

  • Current term
  • Upcoming term(s)

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 2017 - MIIS, Fall 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

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

View in Course Catalog

Areas of Interest

Professor Cai’s passion lies not only in producing quality translations, but also in educating the next generation of first-class translation professionals. Aware of the fact that an exponential increase in demand for translation services in an increasingly interconnected world has been largely met by an equally colossal but disheartening increase in the volume of substandard translation products, he emphasizes the need for rigorous, no-nonsense translator training. He uses his extensive translation experience to help students to hone their skills, and applies a high standard of rigor in terms of translation adequacy and readability.

Academic Degrees

  • MA, Beijing Institute of Foreign Languages (Now Beijing Foreign Studies University), the United Nations Program for Translators and Interpreters
  • BA, Hangzhou University (Now part of Zhejiang University)

Professor Cai has been teaching at the Institute since 2016.