Donato Center’s grand opening confirms a home for multilingual studies at CSULB

Published March 15, 2024

The Beach celebrated growing investment in programs fostering students’ abilities to break through language barriers while hosting a March 14 grand opening for the Clorinda Donato Center for Global Romance Languages and Translation Studies. The center provides a new place for students, many of whom may already be multilingual, to develop the necessary skills for professional-level translation and interpretation.

“It is a tremendous honor for our campus to be home to the first center in the United States that promotes the teaching of multilingual competencies, and the first center in the CSU system to focus on translation studies,” President Jane Close Conoley said. “Acquiring an understanding of cultural, economic, political, and social dynamics is indispensable for navigating the future. I am proud to say the Donato Center is already well on its way to becoming a world-class translation center and multi-cultural gathering space.”

The Donato Center has functioned as a part of campus since 2017 and students and faculty participating in its programs received a space of their own in September 2023, when the campus housed the center within its Liberal Arts Building. Major donor Mario Giannini, who joined Thursday’s gathering, has contributed to its work, including the gift that facilitated the center’s founding as the California State University system’s initial venture into the field of translation studies.

"I don't want to make it sound too basic, but it was because there was a vision to create a place where the importance of understanding different languages and words was a central goal,” Giannini said. “Using language to develop better insights into how people and cultures can work together and inform each other.”

The Donato Center supports academic programs enabling undergraduates to minor in translation studies or add a translation studies option to a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics. The Beach also offers a 12-month Graduate Certificate in Translation Studies. Although aspiring translators and interpreters may already be familiar with using multiple languages, professional work requires specialized learning, Center Director Clorinda Donato said.

Professionals often work in specialized fields, such as the court system or healthcare industry, and that means their vocabularies must contain specialized terminology, Donato said. A courtroom interpreter, for example, would need to be able to accurately convert English-language legal terms to their equivalent in another language while maintaining lines of communication between a client, the client’s family, and an attorney. The Donato Center has soundproof booths for students practicing the art of interpretation.

“We polish and hone the students’ language skills and make them aware of the ethics of translation,” said Donato, who is also a professor of Italian and French.

Other fields have distinct challenges for translators and interpreters. Professionals who localize media content must master close-captioning and dubbing technologies, and translators who prepare marketing materials need to respect the regional nuances of their would-be customers’ language.

“If it’s Spanish, there are many varieties of Spanish,” Donato said. “If you’re going to market a product in Mexico, you’re not going to use the language of Madrid.”

Altogether, Giannini’s donations to the Donato Center represent the largest gift to the campus for programs within the College of Liberal Arts, according to the College. The Donato Center’s support for programs teaching skills of value to professional translators and interpreters aligns Giannini’s generosity with the campus’ No Barriers campaign and one of its central objectives, shaping California’s future workforce. The No Barriers campaign accomplished its goal of raising $275 million in January and is now set to remain active until the next academic year begins in September.

“We wanted to put this kind of center in a state college where tuition is lower,” she said.