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)

Introduction to Written Translation to Chinese

Introduces students to the basic theory and practice of written translation. 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 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 2021 - MIIS

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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 2020 - MIIS, Spring 2021 - MIIS

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Advanced Translation I into Chinese

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 2020 - MIIS

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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.