Translation Studies Graduate Certificate

Origin and Purpose

The increasingly global and multicultural world in which we live has rendered translation more and more important both as an actual, material practice and as a cultural phenomenon to be critically analyzed. The relative increase in human contact across linguistic-cultural boundaries (be they regional, national, continental, etc.) that has occurred in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries has generated, in turn, an increased need for communication across boundaries. This augmented need for cross-linguistic translation does not necessarily imply that the world is a more benign and communicative place. Indeed, periods marked by spiked political and cultural antagonism and tension between geo-linguistic entities, such as that following September 11th, generate a call for more translation from Arabic and other languages into English, and the reverse. As air travel and the internet have widened the actual and virtual traveler’s ambit far beyond the “European tour” of the nineteenth-century aristocrat, who might have the time and means to learn the major (western) European languages, translation has become increasingly necessary.

National and Global Demand

Despite the equivalence suggested by bilingual dictionaries, it is common knowledge that people do not say precisely the same things in different languages. Facial and corporeal gestures differ. Often colors are not designated similarly in unrelated languages. The social functions of the various meals of the day may be wildly dissimilar in various parts of the world. And when one combines infinitely multiplied commonplace terms such as these with the difficulties presented in interpreting such abstract notions as political sovereignty and individual identity from one language to another, one begins to glimpse both the difficulty and the vital interest of translating across languages.

Comparative Literature and Translation Studies

Since the 1980s, translation as practice and as theory has become central to Comparative Literature. Traditionally, this was not the case: the discipline, founded largely in the United States by post-war European émigrés, devoted itself almost exclusively to the European languages and demanded that all texts be read in the original language. But as the canon has expanded to include many non-European literatures, including various creole and hybrid literatures and oratures, scholars have acknowledged the necessity of using translations in research as well as in teaching. Whereas it used to be the case that most major African literary works could be read in either French or English, such is not the case of writers such as Ngugi wa’Thiongo, whose African languages also require translation. Along with the practical turn to translation in Comparative Literature has come, not surprisingly, the critical and theoretical assessment of translation in the context of globalization, multiculturalism, cultural hybridity, post-colonial theory, and an emphasis on interdisciplinarity. With its interest in crossing the borders between languages, cultures, and national literatures, Comparative Literature is implicitly committed to performing and also to assessing theoretically the function and value of “translation” in the widest sense of the term.

Advantages of Certificate to Graduate Students Entering the Job Market

The Certificate in Translation Studies adds an attractive dimension to Comparative Literature PhD degrees and to all foreign language and English PhD degrees. Translation is a fascinating and challenging field of study for both graduate and undergraduate students, as our well-subscribed offerings have shown. Growing in theoretical, methodological, and cultural sophistication, translation studies is emerging as a significant and useful aspect of Comparative Literature and of the humanities in general. Thus it follows that the certificate represents an important supplement to the training of our students as they enter the job market.

Certificate program requirements can be found here.

For more information about the translation studies certificate, contact Gerhild Williams.

Contact Gerhild Williams