In a previous article, we examined The Role of the Interpreter and Translator Throughout History. It is an unexamined piece of history that few, if any, language service providers (LSPs) discuss. Many of the people who undertook the task of translating and interpreting were unskilled and often unwilling, having been coerced into the job through being a captive, a slave, or a member of a conquered society. During World War II, it became apparent that both interpreters and translators were becoming more and more necessary, and that their expertise was required in larger numbers than ever before. The US took Japanese interns – both first and second generation from the camps in which they had been placed and gave them further training to help fight against the country of their origin. In the majority of cases, the internees were glad to be of use, if only to prove their loyalty to their new home.
The Early Language Schools
After 1945, it became clear that there was a continuing need for people with linguistic skills to work within the military. This became even more urgent during the Cold War when the USSR and the West were in a technological race for superiority. Not just papers, but also communications needed to be intercepted and translated in order to stay one step ahead of the perceived Soviet threat.
One of the first language schools to be set up in response to these circumstances was secretly established in an old hangar at the Presidio of San Francisco in 1941 in order to train mostly second generation Japanese students in the Japanese language. During the war, it became known as the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS), but in 1946 it was renamed the Army Language School (ALS) and moved to premises at the Presidio of Monterey, California. Here, it expanded dramatically, both in numbers of students and in the number of languages taught. Around twenty-four different languages were taught to over 1400 students.1 As well as languages, students were also trained in the art of interrogation and in the history, and songs and dances of the land of their chosen language. As may have been expected, given the context of the Cold War, Russia became the largest of the language programs, closely followed by Chinese, Korean and German.2 Very quickly, the ALS established itself as one of the best centers for language learning in the world.
Of course, it wasn’t only the army that needed training in languages. The US Air Force had previously entered into contracts with certain American universities to provide the language programs for its airmen, and the US Navy had a training facility at the Naval Intelligence School in Washington DC. In 1963, these two service arms consolidated their language training, forming the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Washington, although the army still retained the ALS in California.
During the 1970s, further consolidation of the language schools took place and the DLI moved to Monterey with the ALS, and the whole institution was renamed the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC). The DLIFLC was given academic accreditation in 1979, and the subsequent increase in intake saw the institute expand and take on more tutors.3 Today, although it is open only to members of the armed forces or government employees, the DLIFLC produces linguists of the highest proficiency, including translators and interpreters.
In Britain, the closest institution to the DLIFLC was the Joint Services School for Linguists, founded in 1951. This was an altogether smaller and more piecemeal operation than that at Monterey, with multiple training and accommodation sites hosting different language courses. The school was initially set up to teach Russian to selected National Service conscripts, but later also taught Mandarin, Polish, and Czech. With the end of conscription in 1960, it was deemed that there was no longer any use for the school and it closed.4
Later, during the 1960s, Wilton Park in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, UK, became the location for the foundation of three language schools, including one for teaching English to Sandhurst trainees from overseas (the late Colonel Gaddafi from Libya was one of them).5 In 1970, the language schools became the Army School of Language, and then in 1985 was renamed again as the Defense School of Languages (DSL), serving all three armed services. In 2013, the DSL was moved from Beaconsfield to a new base at Shrivenham, although this has been criticized as having less capacity than its previous location.6
Although the majority of language schools, as we would know them in the modern sense, started to develop post-war, there is one which famously began teaching in 1941. The Faculty of Translation and Interpretation (FTI) situated in the University of Geneva in Switzerland, prides itself on being the oldest translation and interpreting center in the world. It started as a school for interpretation but in 1972 also added a translation degree. Known at that point as the École de traduction et d’interprétation (School of translation and interpreting – ETI), it changed to its current name in 2011.
Another famous and early language school is the Gallaudet University. Founded in 1864, Gallaudet is a school for the deaf and hard of hearing where all classes are taught using American Sign Language (ASL), which is regarded as a language in its own right. It offers a Masters of Arts in Interpretation, in particular, the interpretation of ASL. Those interested in Gallaudet University or the history of Sign Language, read A Silent Babel: Sign Language & Algorithms in a Global World.
The Growth of Language Schools
The decades of the 60s, 70s, and 80s saw an explosion in universities offering various degrees, not just in languages but also translation and interpretation. These programs continue to proliferate to this day. For example, in the UK, there are ten universities offering Bachelor degrees7, and 77 Masters8 in translation and interpretation. In the US, there are 24 Bachelors and 21 Masters. In addition to degrees, there are also other interpretation and translation qualifications, including certificates and diplomas.
An excellent example of how language schools have evolved is the Middlebury Language School. This has a reputation going back to 1915 when it taught German exclusively. Today its main campus is in Middlebury, Vermont, close to its satellite school – The Bread Loaf School of English. In 2009, it also opened a campus at Mills College, Oakland, California. It offers 11 languages up to graduate level and also awards the unique qualification of Doctor of Modern Languages.9 It teaches by using the immersion method, and all students have to sign a ‘Language Pledge’ that during their time at the school they will use only the language that they are learning. In addition to its US schools, Middlebury also has 17 other centers around the world.
In 2005 Middlebury entered into a five-year collaboration with Monterey Institute of International Studies and in 2010 formally acquired the school, changing its name to the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey in 2015.10 Before Middlebury entered the equation, it was known as the Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies and was founded in 1955 by linguists Gaspar and Louise Weiss, Frank Elton, and Sybil Fearnley. With its aim of encouraging international cooperation and understanding through the teaching of languages and culture, it was a natural match for Middlebury. These days it prides itself not only on the broad range of language, translation and interpretation courses and qualifications available but also in its mission to provide ‘international and professional education in areas of critical importance to a rapidly changing world.’11
Of course, one degree is often not enough for those seeking professional status. Many go on to gain further qualifications such as a Masters, Ph.D., or a specialist certification (such as the Federal Court Interpreting Certification needed for working in courts in the US). Another route to professional recognition is to become a member of one of the many highly respected associations or societies that exist to promote, for example, translators and interpreters.
Professional Associations Join the Party
Just as with language education providers, there are far too many associations, societies, institutes and federations to be able to include them all, or even a fraction. For example, there are 103 within the European member states alone.12 Therefore this article will take only a few examples to show how they work and in what ways they can benefit their members.
Two of the oldest membership associations are the Modern Languages Association, founded in 1883, which aims to promote the study and teaching of languages, and the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL). The CIOL was founded in 1910 in Britain and works to advance the translation and interpretation industry. It provides professional qualifications, including a Diploma in Translation, a Diploma in Police Interpreting, and a Diploma in Public Service Interpreting. Full professional membership requires the applicant to have either one of these diplomas or a Masters in a relevant field, plus three to five years’ experience, depending on qualifications held. Members can use the industry-recognized letters ‘MCIL’ (Member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists) after their name.13 Further benefits include future professional development opportunities, legal services and guidance.
Another large organization is the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters (IAPTI), founded in Buenos Aires in 2009. Its objectives are very similar to nearly every other professional linguistic association, which is why I have listed them in full here:
1.To promote ethical practices in the field of Linguistic Translation and Interpretation.
2.To represent and protect the interests of its Members, who shall be Translators and Interpreters in all of their specialties.
3.To stimulate the creation of institutional bonds with other associations and public entities, both foreign and domestic, in defense of the Translating and Interpreting profession.
4.To contribute to the training, specialization and professional development of Translators and Interpreters, by means of professional training activities and academic dissemination, such as the organization of congresses, seminars and meetings, and through the issuing of publications and the development of academic activities, etc.
5.To be in attendance, in the person of its Representatives, at congresses, events and meetings relating to linguistic translation and interpretation.
6.To issue public opinions on subjects related to and surrounding translation and interpretation activities.
7.To establish personal, postal, electronic, telephone and/or any other type of communications links with Members of the Association so as to permit constant interaction on professional and social issues.
8.To advance general knowledge regarding the task of Translators and Interpreters
9.To promote the intellectual and cultural improvement of its Members.14
As with CIOL, full members must have a recognized qualification in interpretation or translation and have a minimum of four years’ experience. However, benefits include use of the IAPTI logo, inclusion in an online members’ directory, a personal profile and all sorts of advice about career development.
The International Federation of Translators (FIT), is a bit different. Instead of it being an association for individual members, it acts as an umbrella organization for other associations and societies. As such, it is international, having more than 100 professional member associations in 55 countries. In some ways it acts as a sort of union – looking after the welfare and working conditions of its members as well as promoting the industry. One of its objectives is to ‘link and bring together existing associations of translators, interpreters and terminologists.’15 It is certainly a laudable goal, but at present, 100 members out of the hundreds in existence is still a long way from a truly representative international federation.
Of course, bodies representing translators and interpreters exist in most countries around the world, and most of them also aim to promote the highest ethical and professional standards, as well as to raise the status of the industry’s workers and the industry itself. Australia has AUSIT – the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators, China has TAC – the China Translation Association, and Russia has the UTR – the Union of Russian Translators. There are also associations for specializations in other linguistic professions: the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) in the US, for example, strive to set the ‘highest professional standards in legal interpreting.’16
Poorer Countries and a New Paradigm?
These are just a few of the professional membership associations across the world. It is easy to see that, although they share similar aims, the standards of entry and membership, how they use their influence, and the benefits they offer to the members all differ, especially outside of the European Union, the USA, East Asia and Australia. Wealthier countries can afford better language training facilities, as well as address matters of professionalism. Poorer countries often have a more significant rural population, different language groups and issues that require interpreters in the field. In cases like this, it is often a charity, such as Translators Without Borders who fill the gap by training local people in translating and interpreting the many dialects.17 These people who provide such a valuable service and who have had some level of training, would still not meet the criteria of some of the bigger American and European professional associations for membership. Obviously, what is working in some parts of the world today, will not work in others where there are different conditions.
In summary, for many countries the past few decades have seen a revolution in the development of language training schools, and interpretation and translation studies have also become increasingly popular as courses. The rise in the need for translators and interpreters worldwide has seen a proliferation of professional membership bodies, all vying to offer their members the benefits of visibility to the market and credibility through the reputation of organization they belong to. The question remains that, with so many types of accreditation and representation, whether the world of translation and interpretation is in danger of blurring its boundaries. This is an issue that I will look at in the next article.
- Big Picture: Army Language School. Accessed at https://archive.org/details/gov.archives.arc.2569470, on 02/11/2018
- ‘History of the DLI Foundation and the DLI Alumni Association’, DLI Foundation, accessed at https://www.dli-foundation.org/history.htm, on 02/11/2018
- Nick Catford, ‘Site Name: Wilton Park (Beaconsfield): Eastern Command War Headquarters & AFHQ 5’, Subterranean Britain, accessed at https://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/sites/w/wilton_park/, on 02/12/2018
- Marco Giannangeli, ‘Army in about-turn over drive for bilingual officers’, The Express, accessed at https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/494922/Army-about-turn-over-bilingual-officers, on 02/12/2018
- https://www.bachelorsportal.com/study-options/268927286/translation-interpreting-united-kingdom.html, accessed on 02/12/2018
- https://www.mastersportal.eu/study-options/268927286/translation-interpreting-united-kingdom.html, accessed on 02/12/2018
- ‘Monterey Institute becomes a graduate school of Middlebury College’, accessed at https://www.middlebury.edu/newsroom/node/257702 on 02/12/2018
- Anthony Pym, ‘The Market for Translators and Interpreters’, 05/12/2015, transcribed from a YouTube video on 02/07/2018, accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbrxnXor5co