Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Claire Ziamandanis

In Fall 2021, Dr. Claire Ziamandanis was recruited by the Donato Center to help launch a new Translation Studies Internship Program at CSULB. Dr. Ziamandanis comes to CSULB with years of experience not only as a Professor of Spanish at her home institution, the College of Saint Rose, but also as an ATA-Certified Professional Translator. Her ability to bring the world of professional translation into the classroom and her outstanding track record designing and managing translation internship programs at Saint Rose made her the perfect person to help us launch a high quality internship program here at CSULB. This semester, she oversaw the translation work of six student interns enrolled in SPAN 494: Internship in Spanish. Under Dr. Ziamandanis' guidance, they sharpened their skills as translators and completed a wide range of assignments from real clients. We are so pleased to have Dr. Ziamandanis as a colleague and look forward to seeing what she and future interns will do in the coming semesters. Recently, we asked her a few questions about herself and the internship program. You'll find our exchange below. Enjoy!

Photo of Claire Ziamandanis
Dr. Claire Ziamandanis

Teachers make a difference in the lives of their students, often not knowing just how influential they are through that student’s lifetime. I had two Spanish teachers who are responsible for my entire career woven in and out with Spanish. One was in high school, a young, recently graduated Spanish teacher, who made the language classes fun. The other was in college, also my study abroad program director, with a similar approach to language learning. If you are smiling while you’re learning, you’re more apt to continue developing and enhancing your language skills.

My interest in translation started in graduate school. Admittedly, it was a side-hustle, since TAs are often notoriously under supported. My jobs came to me through personal contacts, and I began to realize just how much I enjoyed the variety of content, and the challenge of taking apart a particularly difficult sentence to accurately convey the meaning in a second language. When I started teaching translation, I realized that many students also enjoyed the challenges, as well as the idea that they were opening doors to a new income source. Just last year I had a student come to me and let me know that she had started to get work from an agency. She said “I think I found my sweet spot!”, that place where she could not only translate meaning, but refine it and enhance it in the target language.

Many academic translation programs in the US remain at the theoretical level. When their graduates go out into the industry, they don’t know how to price a job, how to estimate the time a job will take, or how to find clients. I look to complement the theoretical side of translation with the very practical side of the industry. In this particular internship, the students function very much as freelance translators: they receive proposals for work, they estimate a deadline taking into account other life responsibilities (other courses, athletics, jobs, family responsibilities, weekend availability, etc.), and they work with a proofreader (another student intern) to complete their projects. 

My role is as project manager at a translation agency: finding and sending out jobs to the interns, overseeing the dates of submission, etc. I also act as and additional proofreader, intervening in each project at least two times, if not more.

As a further very practical piece, student interns also return the completed project to the client, with a polite email that often receives an enthusiastic response, since most projects are pro-bono! In this phase, students practice preparing a professional email, but also introduce themselves to a potential future client. Also, those enthusiastic responses can be gathered and used as testimonials of the interns’ professional translation experience.

My goal in this internship program is to let students make mistakes and missteps with me, so that when they go out to find professional work, they will have already gone through the learning curve that most young translators go through – missing a deadline, underestimating the time a job will take, making mistakes in the translation itself.

I also encourage students to leverage their work with the partnered proofreader to begin applying for jobs as a team, finding confidence in their abilities as a pair, counting on each other for free proofreading services as they start out.

Many of my past interns have combined their translation credentials in professions outside of strict translation: criminal justice, business, education, etc. They have worked full time as translators, part time as a side hustle, or offered their services as a bonus to the companies they work for.  

  • Gem – fulltime with NYS Department of Corrections as in-house translator
  • Kristen – summer court interpreter, when not teaching
  • Jordyn – side hustle with translation agency she selected and applied to in class
  • Ada – side hustle with an agency until she launched her own Norwegian language magazine
  • Camden – political science major helping local campaign with Spanish language materials
  • Yakaira – leveraged language skills to get a higher paying position in her company
  • Bianca – fell in love with immigration work, paying it forward for all the people that helped her family immigrate to the US by doing pro-bono work for asylum cases
  • Genesis – uses Spanish in her Social Work job

It’s very important to me to try to help the interns find work in areas that interest them, as well as experience the more bread and butter side of the job, those small, often generic projects that may not engage and excite by content but can add up quickly to help pay the bills or fund a last minute vacation.

Bread and butter jobs are the ones I usually find for them:

  • Safety planning guide in situations of abuse
  • Homicide brochure
  • Child abuse booklet
  • Cal-SOAP webinars and scripts
  • CSULB promotional video

Jobs I found in areas of interest:

  • Kseniya International videos on immigration processes subtitled in Spanish
  • Subtitling gaming video
  • Subtitling children’s books online

Jobs students found in areas of interest:

  • Parents’ guide for reading behaviors
  • Student prompts for reading comprehension and analysis
  • Translating children’s book