Interpretation, Perspective, Translation

Chuanyun Bao, Dean of Monterey’s GSTI

By Steve Goldstein

Chuanyun Bao is the Dean of the Graduate School of Translation and Interpretation (GSTI) at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. He has taught at the United Nations Translators and Interpreters Program at Beijing Foreign Studies University and for the Department of Foreign Languages of Xuzhou Normal University. An active member of AIIC, Dean Bao was a staff interpreter at the United Nations Office in Geneva before he joined the T&I faculty at MIIS. 

This year marked the 50th anniversary of MIIS. Can you talk a bit about the origins of the school, its history, and the significance of this important milestone?
MIIS was founded by a group of professionals 50 years ago who had a strong belief in training professionals for international careers. The school was first called the Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies, then changed to the present name in the 1960s. The 50th anniversary marks the end of our first period of success in international education and the beginning of a new era represented by our affiliation with Middlebury College. GSTI was founded in 1968, and is unique because it is not a school that focuses on language development; students are required to already have language proficiency as they enter our programs. GSTI provides training in translation and interpretation by the highest professional standards and it is a premier school in the field of translation and interpretation in the US. It has a comprehensive curriculum that covers almost every aspect of training in translation and interpretation, including theories, techniques, professional ethics, public speaking and communicative skills, etc. 95% of our faculty are practicing translators and interpreters with training or experience in teaching.

Describe a typical student in your program.
GSTI enrolls about 95 students a year on average, for our seven language programs. We currently have 190 students, of which more than 60% are from abroad. All have a strong interest in translation and interpretation, an interest in world knowledge, and a strong curiosity in learning new things and meeting new challenges.

GSTI recently announced the new MATLM (Masters of Arts in Translation and Localization Management) program. Can you talk about the program a bit, and how it came about?
As more and more of our students have been hired as project managers for localization projects, we recognized the need for more professionals who have language and translation skills as well as knowhow in localization technologies. The MATLM program is unique in that it has three essential components: Tranlsation, Business Management, and Localization Technologies. This combination is made possible by the strong interdisciplinary nature of the programs at MIIS.

You’ve referred to T&I as being an art and a science. In your view, what is the art, and what is the science?
First of all, T&I are a science because they have their rules and norms. Professional training is a scientific and systematic process in which students learn these rules and norms and thus acquire the skills as well as the theoretical knowledge base of translation and interpretation. But it is not enough to know these rules and norms: they must be internalized to become part of your subconscious behavior so that when you use them, they would come out naturally, without much thinking. When one can use these skills as naturally as one’s subconscious self, T&I would become an art. In general, you learn T&I as a science and you practice them as an art—of course after much practice.

With the return of the Winter Olympics this month, can you speak about MIIS’s close association with the Olympic Games?
Dr. Bill Weber, a former dean of the Department of Translation and Interpretation at MIIS, has been actively involved in interpretation for the Olympics. Thanks to his efforts, faculty and students from MIIS were involved in the Los Angeles Games, the Atlanta Centennial Games, the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, and a few other winter Olympic Games. In the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996, as many as 40% of the professional interpreters had either worked or studied at MIIS or were then-faculty members; in addition, a number of students worked as volunteers at the game.

Did you see the movie “The Interpreter”? What did you think of it?
I think it is a good movie, although some of the scenes of interpretation are not how interpreters work in real life. I like the movie because it helps the public know what an interpreter is. As a matter of fact, the original title of the movie was “The Translator.” Thanks to our interpreter colleagues at the United Nations Headquarters in New York who explained to the crew the differences between a translator and an interpreter, we now have a movie that is not only entertaining, but also an education to the public about interpretation.