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Lost and Found in Translation

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Jeremy Miller

Language fluency is the price of admission to diverse cultures. If you move to France but don’t speak French, expect a fool’s errand in assimilation—unless you have access to an interpreter. As social animals, we depend on communication in enormous ways, and no one understands that better than professionals in the translation and interpreting world.

We sat down with Jeremy Miller, an alumnus of the University of Minnesota’s Program in Translation and Interpreting (PTI), to learn more about the art of translation. We asked Miller what led him to pursue a certificate from PTI, and what his professional plans are, now that he’s completed the program.

CCAPS: Why languages? Why interpreting? What is it about this area of study that interests you?

JM: I’m fascinated by languages because they speak volumes about how collective groups of people perceive and conceive of the world around them. Language sheds so much light on how we imagine the world to function, even if we’re completely unaware of how arbitrary our respective understandings of the world really are. To that point, then, I found interpreting and translation so interesting because only highly skilled and trained individuals are able to serve as communication brokers between two individuals with very different outlooks on the world. Interpreters have the power to remove that “foreign-ness” that gets in the way of mutual understanding and effective communication.

Jeremy Miller

CCAPS: What led you to pursue translation and interpreting at the U of M?

JM: I moved down to Minneapolis from Blaine to attend the U of M in 2012, and pursued a major in Spanish and Chemistry. But it was ultimately my fascination with American Sign Language (ASL) and the work of professional interpreters that led me to pursue interpreting. Because interpreting between ASL and English is such a specific discipline, I was unable to begin studies with that language pair. Instead, I studied interpreting between Spanish and English, finishing the PTI certificate in the spring of 2016.

CCAPS: What was that experience in PTI like? Did you have a favorite course?

JM: My experience in PTI was very positive. I looked forward to these classes at the end of the day because they felt so applicable to the real world and always engaged my curiosity for languages. My favorite course was probably TRIN 3001—Intro to Translation, with Claudia Giannini. Her class was my first experience delving deep into the theory of the translation process, engaging in illuminating discussions about the many decisions to be made by translators as they approach a text, for example. After that course, I was hooked.

CCAPS: What’s something that would surprise most people about the work of translating or interpreting?

JM: People think of translation as a way of answering the question, “What does this say?” But, in truth, the questions a translator has to answer go beyond that. We ask, “What does this mean and how do native speakers in the target language talk about it?”

CCAPS: You earned your PTI certificate. So, what’s next for you?

JM: This fall I’m moving to Washington DC to pursue my master’s degree in Interpretation at Gallaudet University, the only fully bilingual university between ASL and English in the world, geared toward Deaf and Hard of Hearing students and/or those entering professions important to the deaf community.

I’m very excited about this opportunity, and I don’t take it lightly. Depending on what interests I develop during my Master’s Program, I’m not sure what will come next for me. I can say I’m interested in pursuing some trilingual interpreting work, where knowledge of English, ASL, and Spanish are all requisite for successful communication. This subfield is gaining traction in the US, and I could see this being a unique and rewarding path for me to pursue.

CCAPS: How does translating and interpreting change how you live and work in the world?

JM: Because so much of my time is spent thinking about communication, language access, and equivalency, I feel that I tend to follow more inclusive approaches when working in groups, always thinking in the back of my mind about how communication is occurring in the group and if everyone is on the same page. If they aren’t, why not, and how can we fix it?

CCAPS: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing a career in the field of translation and interpreting?

JM: I would say that it’s challenging but rewarding work. If you’re seriously considering a career in this field, start taking some courses and be willing to dedicate yourself to continued language skill and interpreting skill development. This is the type of field where you are never done learning, and there is always room for improvement. Don’t be afraid to take the first steps and see how you like it!