From anime and Italian cinema, to legal proceedings and medical findings, translation plays a key part in our daily interactions with global culture and information. Beginning for the first time this 2022-2023 academic year, Liberal Studies is offering a new minor in Translation Studies! In keeping with Liberal Studies' global perspective, the Translation Studies minor will teach students to connect meaning across languages and interdisciplinary fields of study.
Global Liberal Studies Professor Jen Zoble's work has been leading to this minor since she joined the NYU faculty in 2012. Zoble, a literary translator who teaches courses in translation history, theory, and practice, noticed a trending interest in translation among GLS sophomores and seniors after spending their first year or junior year away. Zoble explained, "during junior year some of the students had Experiential Learning placements that involved translation tasks, which was a kind of baptism by fire because they worked across languages without any translation training. They returned to New York wanting more context for understanding the work they’d done."
In 2018, Zoble and her Liberal Studies colleague James Polchin, with input from other GLS faculty, began developing the vision and curriculum for a new, interdisciplinary minor. They reached out to department chairs and faculty teaching courses involving translation studies across Arts & Science, identifying eligible courses and opportunities for collaboration with 10 Arts & Science departments as well as the School of Professional Studies' Master of Science in Translation and Interpreting. This process led to a formal partnership with the Department of Comparative Literature, which is the minor’s co-sponsor. Thanks to community-wide interest and awareness, the proposal for this cross-school minor was enthusiastically approved by the various academic committees that reviewed it, and ultimately the Office of the Provost.
Consisting of one introductory course from either GLS or Comp Lit, one elective in translation theory and/or practice from either GLS or Comp Lit, and two other electives from GLS, Comp Lit, or other participating departments, this minor embodies the Liberal Studies global mission by allowing students to participate in the cultural and contextual implications of translation regardless of their fluency in more than one language. Zoble explained that in her "literary translation practice course, students who lack proficiency in a second language can take on their own translation of a short literary text by collaborating with someone with higher source-language knowledge to create a trot or pony–that is a super literal translation–and then crafting it into more nuanced English."
For students who are studying languages, or interested in learning about translation in specific professional contexts, there is also the ability to take specialized translation courses across the Arts & Science language departments and in the SPS MS in Translation & Interpreting program. This minor is open to students of all majors and Zoble hopes to further expand this minor to other disciplines by collaborating with Stern, Tisch, Steinhardt, and any other interested schools.
Zoble enjoys teaching translation at the undergraduate level because for many it is their first academic interaction with the field. By studying the cultural, technical, and creative complexities of translation work, Zoble is challenging "preconceptions about literature and translation that view translation as a merely derivative art" by showcasing the many facets of work required for good translation.
Interested students should enroll in one of these courses or get started by attending Translation Nation club meetings held at 726 Broadway, 6th floor. This club is open to all students and offers an opportunity to experience translation firsthand before diving deeper into the minor. Students and faculty are also invited to join Translation Nation in celebrating International Translation Day on Friday, September 30.