USD to Offer Graduate Certificate in Spanish-English Translation

Photo of volunteers at income tax clinic providing Spanish translation services. Volunteers at the income tax clinic provide Spanish translation services.

VERMILLION, S.D. – Beginning next fall, the University of South Dakota’s Department of Modern Languages & Linguistics will enroll students in a new graduate-level certificate program in Spanish translation to help meet the region’s need for professional translation services. The certificate requires 16 credit hours to complete, and the department will develop four new courses specific to the practice of translation. Students will explore the theory, ethics, and practice of Spanish-English translation.

“The Department of Modern Languages & Linguistics at USD receives repeated requests for translation and interpretation services from the community and from surrounding states,” said Angela Helmer, associate professor of Spanish.

Across the region and country there is growing demand for certified Spanish translators. Between 2000-2010, the Hispanic population in South Dakota grew by nearly 103 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Translators are trained to help people with limited English proficiency understand medical, legal, and commercial language and to participate in legal proceedings.

Helmer said undergraduate students majoring in Spanish and department faculty interpret annually for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. An internship with the USD School of Law Immigration Clinic also pairs advanced undergraduate Spanish majors with law students to assist with asylum and refugee cases from Latin America.

“While faculty prepare and supervise students throughout participation in these programs, independent professional work in the field of translation requires study, training, and practice in the specific skill of translation, which is beyond the scope of USD’s Spanish bachelor’s degree,” said Helmer.

The USD Certificate in Spanish Translation aims to prepare students for the certification exam of the American Translators Association. Since South Dakota is one of only seven states that does not yet require certification of translators for courtrooms or for other state functions, many clients are forced to seek qualified translators outside the state or rely on insufficiently trained friends or acquaintances. By focusing this certificate on written Spanish translation rather than on oral interpretation, graduates will be able to work locally, nationally, and internationally in the translation profession while maintaining their residence in South Dakota.

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