With her senior year fast approaching, Spanish major Silvia Romero wondered how she would turn an education filled with 19th-century luminaries and the literary treasures of her native language into a career. Her pursuit of Spanish literature had been a journey of potential in search of direction; it wasn’t until an advisor pointed her to a fast-growing translation program that a path became clear.
Housed in the College of Liberal Arts, The Clorinda Donato Center for Global Romance Languages and Translation Studies is a burgeoning hub for translation study on campus and translation services in the region. The Center’s opening in 2017 launched the shared vision of Director Dr. Clorinda Donato and investor Mario Giannini for a world-class translation center and multi-cultural gathering space on campus. The Center is unique in the State of California, offering world-class training in translation studies at state university prices.
After five years of growth, the Center’s cross-disciplinary curricular packages, internship program, and newly added graduate certificate in translation services have attracted talented faculty, industry partners, and passionate students such as Romero.
The experience was life-changing, honestly,
Romero said, recounting her experience as part of the internship program’s inaugural cohort in Fall 2021. “I translated material like City of Long Beach’s Guidelines for Victims of Domestic Violence and Kseniya International’s YouTube channel on immigration. It made me excited to enter this industry and explore localization for TV, movies, and video games.”
Romero will have no shortage of opportunities; demographic shifts and an explosion of consumer content have made translation one of California’s fastest growing industries, with demand for interpreters and translators expected to grow 20.45% from 2016-2020 according to the Employment Development Department of the State of California.
To meet that need, the Donato Center’s minor in translation studies is designed to enhance a variety of disciplines – from science to tech to humanities to entertainment – and to serve learners of a multitude of languages.
“A vast number of students who come to CSULB speak a heritage language,” Donato explained. “Spanish, Tagalog, Korean, Vietnamese… and very often that skillset would lie fallow because there’s no way for a student to utilize it toward employment. This program gives students a professionalizing track in languages that they can combine with their major.”
Only a few years after launch, the Center’s cross-disciplinary research and programming have already made it a destination in the CSU.
“The ability to offer such innovative courses and internships is a direct result of financial support,” Donato said, referring to a recent gift by longtime collaborator Mario Giannini.
Giannini’s initial investment of $1.75 million in 2017 gave Donato the resources and momentum to launch the Center. His most recent gift of $5.25 million – the largest in the history of the College of Liberal Arts – kickstarted the Center’s evolution into a bastion of language and culture in the region.
“The milestone to me was when I felt the university and the CSU system was fully behind it,” said Giannini, speaking from his home in Philadelphia. “Clorinda and I envisioned a space where people come for translation studies, services, publishing… where you have cultures interacting and informing all fields. A physical location where people could gather, talk, and learn.”
That physical space is in the works – the Donato Center will move into new lab and office spaces in LA-1 in 2024.
That the Center should be a beacon in the CSU system was important to Giannini, who earned his B.A. in English from Cal State Northridge in 1973.
“The CSU system was a huge influence,” Giannini said. “I was born in France, and my parents spoke Italian. At CSUN I majored in English and took Russian courses.
I was enamored with the Russian literary greats and had a great love of language itself.
The love of language resonates through each of the Donato Center’s programs, offerings which go beyond the mechanics of translation to explore the history, philosophy, and psychology of language. The ability to share ideas across cultures in a way that transcends words and writing is what helped Silvia Romero fall in love with translation and chart a path to graduation and beyond.
“I found this, and I’m doing what I like, and everything feels easy now,” she said. “I never would have imagined going out of the country for a master’s before, but now I’m hoping to apply to study translation in Barcelona.”
“We have really charted fresh ground,” Donato said. “It’s part of a vision of inclusivity and student-readiness, meeting the priorities of Beach 2030 (CSULB’s Strategic Plan).”
The Donato Center’s future focus is a large part of what makes its programming so unique, and why demand is increasing each semester.
“As we grow, we get more requests for student interns from every discipline to work on our campus,” Donato said. “Speech language pathology and physical therapy, arts and politics… We see translation as a field that brings together a powerful skillset that all students need.”