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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Translator program sees rapid enrollment growth

Since its launch five years ago, the UA’s translation and interpretation program has grown from 35 to 170 students.

The Spanish and Portuguese department’s five-year-long undergraduate program was developed by the National Center for Interpretation through a grant given to the center from the U.S. Department of Education.

“The federal government has been looking at this much more closely, recently in the last 10 years or so, and so more and more agencies are recognizing their obligation to provide interpreter services for their clients,” said Paul Gatto, assistant director for the Interpretation Test Research Center.

In August 2000, then-President Bill Clinton signed White House Executive Order 13166 requiring that “the Federal Government provides and funds an array of services that can be made accessible to otherwise eligible persons who are not proficient in the English language.”

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also requires institutions that receive federal money to provide equal access to people with limited English proficiency, which Gatto explained as one of the many reasons for the growing demand for qualified translators and interpreters.

“The need is great and growing because of federal efforts to enforce civil rights laws that relate to people with limited English proficiency,” Gatto said.

Sonia Colina, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese, said the program is developing an online certification process, which will cater to working professionals and undergraduates who want to continue their education in translation and interpretation.

“For people who are older, or professionals that might be working part-time or full-time, those people see sometimes that they can’t go back to school but they need to get some kind of formal training,” Colina said. “Up until very recently in the U.S. we didn’t really have much formal training in translation and interpretation.”

With the increasing number of accredited translators and interpreters, businesses and institutions will begin to seek translators and interpreters with higher forms of education in the field, according to Colina.

“Recent Department of Labor statistics indicate that the growth of the field is projected to outpace the growth of most fields in the next 20 years,” Gatto said.

Translation and interpretation programs are also necessary for Americans born in the U.S.

“There a lot of people who are born and raised here who are still limited in their English proficiency, and you can grow up in this country without knowing very much English,” Gatto said.

Gatto said the mentality that the United States is an English-speaking country is inconsistent with the legal foundation of the country, and that it wasn’t created with English as its primary language.

“It doesn’t strike me as very American … and it doesn’t strike me as a particularly moral perspective to take,” Gatto said.

Colina also stressed the demand for accredited translators in the medical and legal fields where businesses are liable for mistakes in translation.

Ramses Rocha, a UA graduate from the Eller College of Management and program coordinator for the National Center for Interpretation, said he’s witnessed the difficulty that a person with limited knowledge in English undergoes in medical and legal settings.

“In the legal realm, as well as in the medical, there’s definitely a different language. Being able to communicate in such a language is a matter of life or death,” Rocha said. “The service that we provide to train people who want to interpret and translate is very important, there are people who really need the service.”

Rocha said his main goal is to fulfill the center’s mission statement and provide access and justice to people with limited or no knowledge of the English language. The center also contributes to the UA’s obligations as a land grant institution to serve the community, Gatto said.

“We really try to make ourselves a resource for the community of interpreters in this country at all levels,” said Eva Morrow, marketing specialist for the center, “and that’s definitely something we like to reinforce.”

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