Ivy M. Prince of Brownsville, chose to major in Spanish, her first language, early in her college career to become a teacher, but she wanted to use her language skills to help people even more.
Prince, 27, decided to become an English- Spanish language translator and interpreter through additional studies at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.
She began taking Spanish translation and interpretation courses for a minor, eventually earning enough credits for a second bachelor’s — even before the bachelor’s degree program became official this fall.
Prince will help the UTB/TSC Translation Studies program mark a milestone on Saturday, Dec. 19 when she becomes the first student to graduate with the new bachelor’s degree in Spanish translation and interpretation. She will also receive her bachelor’s degree in Spanish.
“On Sept. 15, a friend called me and told me that Dr. (Jose) Davila had sent us an e-mail saying that it was approved, and that everyone that had all the classes was going to graduate at Winter Commencement. I cried. It feels like all my work is going to be paid off,” she said.
The Translation Studies program has 10 declared bachelor’s students and 40 students in the associate, certificate and undergraduate minor programs. UTB/TSC has been offering translation courses since late 1970s, but it was not until the late 1990s that the university created the associate degree in Spanish translation.
The minor in translation studies began in the early 2000s, and the 15- hour graduate certificate in 2007. Plans are in place for the development of a master’s degree in translation studies in the future, said Dr. Jose Davila, a UTB/TSC assistant professor of translation and interpreting, and coordinator of undergraduate and graduate Translation Studies programs.
“In the U.S., we are among the halfdozen institutions that offer a bachelor’s in translation,” said Davila. “It’s mainly because of the mastery of the language you need before you start translating.”
The Modern Languages Department will offer an online pilot course for a graduate certificate in Spanish translation during spring semester, Davila said. The course will be limited to 15 students, who can take the weekly lessons at any time.
The Rio Grande Valley is a natural place to produce quality English-Spanish translators and interpreters because of its location on an international border, Davila said.
“You need to have a never-ending intellectual curiosity,” Davila said. “You need to work on your spelling and writing for translation, and also public speaking for interpreting.”
August Lovegren, 23, a translation certificate graduate student from San Benito, said high school students interested in pursuing the field need to read as much as possible in the languages they study and spend time researching unfamiliar vocabulary.
“Translating is usually fun, kind of like figuring out a puzzle,” Lovegren said.
Jobs are typically available for translators and interpreters at airlines, courthouses, federal agencies, hospitals, corporations and international agencies.
“English and Spanish are always fighting for second and third place as the most widely spoken languages in the world behind Chinese Mandarin,” Davila said.