Genevieve Kimble already had nine languages under her belt, but discovered she still had plenty to learn.
So, when Cal State Long Beach launched its translation studies program in Fall 2019, she was eager to become one of the first students to receive a minor in what is a growing field that plays a major role in today’s global economy.
Kimble, who graduated in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in linguistics and another in American Sign Language linguistics and deaf cultures, said she entered the program with some assumptions about translation, but was surprised by what she learned.
“I learned translation is a lot more complicated than people think. Translators have to think about the translation’s purpose, the audience and the connection between the languages being translated,” Kimble said. “There are super fancy translations and then there are direct word-for-word translations, but what’s considered ‘good’ is very subjective.”
The professors building the program believe CSULB is the first public university in California to offer a translation degree program that reaches across languages, cultures and disciplines. Two new faculty members will join the program this fall — Giulia Togato and Adrià Martin Mor — and they will bring a new level of expertise and innovation to the program, which includes a significant technology component, Donato said.
Donato knew translation studies was a good fit for The Beach because of the linguistic diversity of its student body, the number of languages taught, and the prospect of partnering with the Linguistics Department, which regularly receives inquiries from students about how to enter the field of translation. Plus, the demand for interpreters and translators in California is expected to grow 20.45% from 2016-2026, according to the Employment Development Department of the State of California.
“Translation is the fourth largest and growing industry in the United States,” she said. “We live in Southern California, which is the hottest market for the translation industry and entertainment. There’s a growing market for trained translators.”
One of the most unique aspects of the growing translation studies program is a self-study language course that Donato developed with Associate Director Manuel Romero. The course will be part of the B.A. translation option and will pair students with language experts if the language a student wants to study isn’t offered. The B.A. program will be the first in California to offer translation studies for any language, Donato said.
For students to be successful translators, they need a minimum of three years of language coursework, according to Associate Professor of linguistics Dr. Michael Ahland. Some of the language programs at CSULB don’t offer three full years of language coursework, which is where the experts come in.
The idea is, if we don't have experts here locally, we'll find them for our students," Ahland said. "Students may have to work through video calls to meet with people and work with them on translation problems, but they will be paired with an expert with whatever they are working on.
The program will provide students with the expertise to build bridges across languages, as well as promote understanding and clear communication, Ahland said. It is meant for students who study languages academically, but also those who come to CSULB as heritage speakers and want to develop and capitalize on their language skills.
The Clorinda Donato Center for Global Romance Languages and Translation Studies opened in 2017 at CSULB thanks to a $1.1 million donation by longtime supporter of Italian Studies, Mario Giannini.
Giannini said he hopes the Donato Center becomes a magnet for the training and development of translation talent and programs. Students, educators and businesses will all have something to gain from the program, he said.
“If you are able to develop a hub of learning, training, scholarship and application, you will attract a variety of people to the field and you create an ecosystem that grows,” he said.