By Cristiano Mazzei
The Century College Translating & Interpreting (TRIN) program was created through a grant from the Bush foundation and the participation of important players in interpreter and translator education and training, such as the University of Minnesota, in order to meet the increasing demand for professional interpreters in the state of Minnesota.
However, different from other curricula, TRIN is language-neutral, which means that the program accepts students with any language paired with English and that its pedagogy is focused on the process. Many of the practical exercises needed for building interpreting skills are performed in English, including memory development, cognitive skills development, etc.
Nevertheless, TRIN hires language reviewers to provide periodic general feedback to students, since we believe this enhances the learning experience and provides them with essential assessment of their foreign language skills. The program’s broad mix of cultures and languages enriches the learning environment, since students are able to exchange different views about equivalence, cultural and linguistic specificities.
Our diverse student profile includes recent or late immigrants, many of whom have Bachelor’s degrees from their countries of origin in different areas, and some of them do not have, or have not completed, formal education in their native languages. United States citizens make up a good portion of our student population, with Spanish being the major foreign language. Some have had extensive formal education in Spanish, including a Bachelor’s degree or a minor in Spanish. Some have lived abroad for different lengths of time, so their levels of proficiency vary to some degree.
Some TRIN students are heritage speakers of their families’ language, including Hmong, Spanish, Korean, etc. Many of our students are working interpreters and translators who have little, some, or no formal interpreter training. Some of them are graduates of a translation and interpreting program and are now seeking to complete our AAS degree.
Century College’s TRIN program requires beginning students to fulfill some requirements before they start their program, including college-level English through placement tests or proof of completion of college-level coursework. They are also required to meet with the program’s coordinator and faculty members to discuss their language proficiency in their other working language, which may include transcripts from foreign study, number of years of living abroad, and length of study of the second language in the United States.
Before taking TRIN 1041 (Beginning Skills of Interpreting), which is usually taken in their second semester of the program, students are required to take the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview and score Advanced High or Superior in both of their working languages — Advanced-Mid is accepted conditionally on a case-by-case basis.
The TRIN program offers a 30-credit certificate and a 60-credit Associate in Applied Science degree. It also accepts transfer of some U of M translating and interpreting courses. Test-out options are also available for some courses.
To answer to the increasing demand for interpreters in remote areas in Minnesota, Century College has signed agreements with Riverland Community College and Rochester Technical and Community College — and seeks to partner with other schools — to provide the TRIN program via ITV (Interactive Television), which would give students from other parts of the state access to high quality training.
In fall 2011, TRIN started offering hybrid courses, which meet 50 percent online and 50 percent face-to-face, and in spring 2012 is launching three fully online courses. The college has an advanced language lab with new software installed in 2011 (Sanako), which is available to all students, including students from other sites. Some of the TRIN courses encourage students from remote areas to attend at least one lab session each semester to work on their interpreting skills.
The TRIN program’s philosophy is learner-centered program, focused on cognitive skills, decision-making, and critical thinking. Some of our class and homework activities include reading and discussion of practical and theoretical materials, critical to building critical-thinking and decision-making skills and awareness of translating and interpreting as a profession and as a field of research.
Students are also asked to do presentations to improve their public speaking, critical thinking, and analytical skills. Our role-play exercises include introductions, pre-conferences, and encounter flow management, and our interpreting exercises are geared toward improving memory, analysis, and accuracy.
In addition, students are exposed to a wide variety of settings and subjects. Reflection and self-assessment are key to the program, since they support and encourage skill acquisition and lifelong learning. TRIN has also created a blog, which includes articles, video clips, and news about the interpreting and translating world. Also, in order to enhance communication and interaction with students, TRIN has also created a Facebook page.
Century’s TRIN program faculty and staff include experienced translators and interpreters with years of training/teaching experience and academic research in the field of translation and interpreting. Our faculty is constantly attending and presenting at national and international translation and interpreting conferences in order to keep abreast of the latest pedagogic, technological, and academic information in the field. The program also relies on a lab assistant, who provides critical technological and academic support to students.
In order to finish their TRIN degree options, students also have to complete an internship component. Through partnerships with local stakeholders, including hospitals, school districts, and agencies, TRIN students observe experienced interpreters working in different areas and write a critical journal about their encounters, which is discussed periodically in group meetings. This practicum allows students to have hands-on experience and connect with potential employers.
Cristiano Mazzei is the TRIN Coordinator.