NWC to offer new major in translation and interpretation

Beginning next fall, Northwestern College will offer a new major in Spanish translation and interpretation. The program is designed for bilingual high school graduates who desire to earn a bachelor’s degree in a liberal arts setting and work in the burgeoning fields of translation and interpretation.

The program seeks to help meet a growing demand—locally, statewide, nationally and globally—for translators and interpreters. For example, there are only 11 class A certified interpreters for Iowa’s court system, one of whom is Northwestern professor Piet Koene, who will direct the new program. In addition, the major will provide translators and interpreters for church work, an area of increasing importance as the global church shifts more and more to the south, including Latin America, and as churches in the U.S. seek to extend their ministries to the Spanish-speaking population.

“This will be the first baccalaureate-level translation and interpretation program at a Christian college or university in the U.S.,” says Koene. “Only three other colleges have a bachelor’s degree program in translation and interpretation, targeting fully bilingual students: the University of Arizona; California State University, Long Beach; and the University of Texas at Brownsville.”

The major includes six new courses, one of which is a senior-year practicum in which students will serve as professional interpreters and translators. The program consists of 35 credit hours in Spanish, translation and interpretation; an additional 14 hours of cognate requirements such as courses in public speaking, linguistics and the law; and classes in a variety of disciplines to meet Northwestern’s general education requirement.

Koene says future interpreters and translators will benefit from studying in a liberal arts college like Northwestern. “Successful interpreters and translators have a wide-ranging knowledge in many subjects. A liberal arts program provides a strong foundation and encourages students to be lifelong learners, which is essential to excel in this field.”

Koene, named the Iowa Professor of the Year in 2004, has taught in Northwestern’s modern foreign language department since 2000. He earned a master’s degree in translation and interpretation, as well as professional certifications in both areas, at the Monterey (California) Institute of International Studies last year.

“Piet is among just a handful of individuals in the country capable of teaching these classes, having received certification as well as being an educator,” says Rick Clark, chairperson of the Spanish department. “In addition, translation and interpretation are such a passion for him that he has dedicated thousands of hours to improve his abilities, and he is exceptionally skilled. Piet also understands the value of using those skills to help achieve greater justice for the Hispanics in Iowa and as a way to serve the Lord.”

Northwestern plans to purchase an interpretation laboratory, an interpreting booth for Christ Chapel, and portable translation and interpretation equipment to provide students with hands-on experience. Majors will use the equipment while offering valuable services to the community. “By providing students opportunity for practice in settings such as at a business, dentist’s office or school, we will also be building links with the surrounding communities and serving the Hispanic and Anglo individuals in our area,” says Clark.

For more information about the new major, contact Piet Koene at 712-707-7051 or koene@nwciowa.edu.

Online Radio Iowa story, from KCIM, Carroll, Iowa 4/26/10