Translation is just part of what the National Center for Interpretation has to offer

Translation is just part of what the National Center for Interpretation has to offer

By Sonia ColinaNational Center for Interpretation
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Sonia Colina, NCI director and Regents Professor of Spanish and Portuguese
Sonia Colina, NCI director and Regents Professor of Spanish and Portuguese

With more than 60,000 employees and students, the University community speaks, reads and writes in many different languages, making translation and interpreting needs not just helpful but necessary.

They also are convenient. For more than 40 years, the National Center for Interpretation, part of the College of Humanities, has offered those services to University units and programs, as well as organizations and institutions around the world.

As director of NCI, I encourage University colleagues to come to us for your translation and interpreting needs. In addition to our long-standing translation and interpreting services, we offer many more.

Not all bilingual speakers are translators

A common misconception by people in need of translations is that anyone who is bilingual can accurately translate a document from one of their languages to the other.

"We all have teeth, but we're not all dentists," I heard a colleague once say. Along those same lines, we all use language but using it for professional purposes is something completely different.

There's also a misunderstanding about the difference between translating and interpreting. Translating involves working with text, while interpreting involves translating a spoken language in real time. The processes are related but require different skill sets.

As with other disciplines across campus, translating and interpreting require specialized training and professional certification. Our team has both, and we can connect you with professionals around the world who are certified translators and interpreters in hundreds of languages.

What we offer

Translator and interpreter training can be customized for most units or programs. In the past, we have tailored these services for faculty at K-12 school districts and the courts, such as the Supreme Court of Palau, whose leaders turned to us in 2019 for training on court interpreting, one of our most popular training programs.

Certain programs can be done online, while others involve in-person workshops that run up to five days.

We can also work with researchers to make their research more inclusive, and potentially help increase the success rate of their grant applications. It's increasingly common for granting agencies to require that grant applications explain how the researchers plan to reach populations that speak other languages. We can help you meet these requirements.

Taking advantage of this service shows that inclusive research is not only a priority for you, but an institutional commitment for the University of Arizona.

Recently, our work has been front and center amid the COVID-19 pandemic. NCI was behind the effort to translate signage on campus for the University's state vaccine point of distribution, and we've also translated other pandemic-related communications.

We also have helped Enrollment Management in early outreach efforts to students and families. Most recently, we provided a Spanish version of a brochure for Enrollment Management team members to hand out at college fairs to help them reach Spanish-speaking audiences.

Reaching prospective students in their own language is a small step toward fulfilling University's Hispanic Serving Institution designation.

Think of NCI services early and often

For translation and interpreting services, Holly Silvestri, senior coordinator for translation, training and curriculum, will work with our network of certified freelancers to find someone who can meet the needs of the request.

Perhaps most crucial to a translation or interpreting request is lead time. We get many inquiries the day before an event asking for interpreters for several different languages, which often isn't feasible without much more advance notice.

With enough notice, we can typically meet requests for just about any language. We've never had to deny a request due to a language's obscurity, and we are particularly well connected to translators and interpreters for the more than 3,600 Indigenous languages used in Mexico.

Whatever a unit's need may be, working with trained and qualified interpreters through NCI can help ensure your documents, websites or events are translated and interpreted accurately.

To request a service or to get information about other NCI services, email ncitrp@email.arizona.edu or call 520-621-3615. For information about interpreting for the deaf and hard of hearing, contact the Disability Resource Center.


Sonia Colina is director of the National Center for Interpretation and a Regents Professor of Spanish and Portuguese.

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